Evolution, or at least most interpretations, is Evolution through Natural Selection. Which means that a species changes over a long period of time, or evolves, in order to have a better chance at surviving. The year is 1835, and a failing biologist named Charles Darwin sets foot on a boat, not as a collector, but a gentleman. He was about to travel around the globe in hopes of making a breakthrough to save his career, but little did he know he would make a theory that would change biology introducing a thought that all animals come from a similar or common ancestor and that God not as much rule setter, but instead the referee. Before evolution was theorized, biology was not as important as it is today. Although cell theory was being spoke of and starting to become noticed, the average man or woman said ‘so what?’ and ‘why does this matter’. If you didn’t know, a biologist is someone who studies life and animals. Before Darwin went on the HMS Beagle he was at first a major in the medical field, but his interest in marine biology kept him from doing his work. He turned into a ‘biologist’ by collecting different specimens and fossils. But to most he just seemed like a little collector of sorts. His father was annoyed at Charles for neglecting his studies as a medical student and sent him to Christ’s College to be a parson. But soon Darwin once again started to get drawn away from his studies. He became a friend and follower of John Henslow, who was a botany professor. Darwin also met other parson-naturalists who thought that studying natural science was their duty from god. Seeing the marine studies at Cambridge encouraged Darwin to seek his path as a naturalist. He started right where he left off, but this time he made sure to keep his studies just like his friend Henslow did to get where he was at the time.
Few years pass before Henslow introduces Darwin to Robert Fitzroy, who was a captain that would pilot the HMS Beagle for Darwin for some coin. Henslow tells Darwin that he should find a way to get that money, because it would be huge for him to go on an expedition around the globe not as a collector, but instead a gentleman. Darwin gets the money to pay from his father’s cousin. After leaving Plymouth the first stop on the sailors list was Cape Verde.
Here Darwin began to get involved in geology after seeing the volcanic rock on the beaches of Cape Verde. After they went to Bahia where they found huge fossils of an extinct animal. After that they bounced around the southern tip of South America until they landed in the Galapagos Islands. Since the Galapagos Islands were geologically new they were not touched by humans too much, entire fossils to be discovered on the island, and Darwin was determined to find them. After they made their way to Sydney, Hobart and King George’s Sound before making it in Cape Town. Even though all these Cities were important, Cape Town was most important. There Darwin met Sir. John Herschel, a widely known mathematician, botanist, physicist, and astronomer. He and Darwin spoke about the idea of Darwin’s theory was true, then would it be able to resurrect extinct animals by placing other animals in the right conditions. This idea is being tested today, but instead of habits, the change genes. After he said goodbye to Sir. Herschel and gathered his notes and began to head for home. On the journey back Darwin wrote in his notebook that “such facts undermine the stability of species” but then quickly added would, before undermine to keep it up in the air. He did this most likely because he himself was not completely sure that his theory was correct. The finches and mockingbirds could all be complete coincidence right?
Darwin did not want to look like a person who apparently knew everything, but at the same time changed the ‘ruleset’ of how the most common religion operated(Deseret News). He wanted to possibly get an idea into people’s head. So the Beagle went back to Cape Verde to wait out a storm and returned to Plymouth(See image 1 for diagram of the Beagles course) Darwin arrives back in Plymouth and immediately finds a way to get back to his home town of Shrewsbury to be with relatives. After a week he was asked to come to Cambridge and continue his studies. Darwin obligated, only if he could talk with other scientists about his theory. Both sides agreed and Darwin continued to theorize and study at the same time. The excited Darwin was parading to different institutions to speak with other people, and to get another opinion on his theory. He met Charles Lyell, who was a person who introduced ato geology with his book “Principles of Geology”. He also began sorting and categorizing the fossils he found with Richard Owen, a student at the Royal College of Surgeons who had a remarkable talent for identifying fossils(StrangeScience). Darwin continue linking evolution, as well as natural selection. Natural selection and evolution are closely tied where if one changes it will affect the other. Animals evolve in order to have better chance at being ‘naturally selected’. For example the finches that Darwin studied in the galapagos had different beaks to eat different foods. This way you (as a bird) have a better chance at finding a meal since there is less competition for the food in your diet. These finches gave darwin the idea of this theory. One year after arriving back home he moved to London to be closer to his work.
Darwin soon became very sick, he described it as “an uncomfortable palpation of the heart”(Britannica) so doctors said he lay off all work for a few months. So he went back to Shrewsbury and lived with relatives for a few weeks and was back to work. He refined his theory and soon his partner Henslow suggested that Darwin make not just a written out theory, put publish it too. Some think Darwin was eager to publish the book, but most think he was reluctant. That book mentions among other things what Darwin spoke about with John Herschel, like how god is more a referee of the world, not an iron fist that controls everything(LiveScience). He had been working on this theory for months exhausting him, he writes in his autobibliography“In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work…’ (Charles Darwin, 1838)
A triumph in science that would become of this theory, it would form the basics of genetics and it would transform how people look at fossils and dinosaurs. But before this could happen, he needed to publish the book.
Darwin was sceptical if the book would be accepted, because the state of England was erupting with controversy since The Vestiges of Natural History of Creation were recently published. It talks about the ideas of evolution through god’s guidance and god being the reason for transmutation. Darwin’s heart sickness was getting worse, so he decided to get hydrotherapy, and to his surprise, it worked and soothed his chest pains. But tragedy struck the family as he started to notice that his eldest daughter Anne was having the same conditions. Anne died, but not in vain, for after Darwin’s mourning subsided he conceived that the sickness was in fact hereditary. Meaning it is passed down from parent to offspring. After 8 more years of studying, specifically on barnacles, he discovered slight differences in the ‘tentacles’ of the barnacles from different locations. He also wanted to see if he could bring a seed or egg across the atlantic and begin the species in a new location. Lyell was intrigued to see if it would work but others thought it was a terrible idea to mess with the placement of animals and plants. After reading a paper by Alfred Russel Wallace Darwin saw many similarities in his research and was determined to make his paper addressing transmutation. Wallace was just like Darwin, but he was the first person to conceive evolution through natural selection Darwin, Lyell, and Wallace all worked together with other biologists and botanists to make a presentation called “On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection”. But Darwin was being notified that his hometown had an outbreak of scarlet fever, and Darwin’s baby son tragically died two days before the presentation. Darwin could not attend the presentation. Even though Darwin was sick, his scientific friends encouraged him to keep working on the small amount of progress on hin ‘Big Book’. Charles Lyell arranged for the book to be published by John Murray. On November 27, 1859, the book was published. Its title is “On the Origin of Species” and to Darwin’s surprise the book sold surprisingly well. It sold its stock of 1250 books to different book stores across london. But some reactions were exactly what made Darwin sceptical of publishing the book. Even though the Church of England’s response was mixed his old Cambridge tutors dismissed Darwin’s ideas. Although some Clergymen thought that it was god’s way of revealing the true way that our species came about. A Clergyman is a minister or leader of a certain sector of a church(Charles Darwin, Wikipedia). Even his friend Lyell had restrictions, but still wholeheartedly support Darwin and his theory. After years of theorizing and answering questions about his book and enjoying life with his family, Darwin’s heart sickness started getting the best of him.
Darwin died in 1882, he lived to be 73 years old and be one of the most recognizable scientists of the 19th century. Darwin expected to be buried at the local cemetery in Downe, where he lived. But through the persistent pleads and petitions of his colleagues, he was buried in the Westminster Abbey next to John Herschel and Isaac Newton. But by the time Darwin died, he had already convinced that evolution through natural selection was not the only, but the main method of transmutation.
Soon in the 20th century, ‘Darwinism’ would become more widely accepted in the world. Today it is known as the main method of species adapting to their environments. Evolution is the basis of genetics and helped in the research of hereditary diseases. In the end evolution is one of the most helpful theories, but also one of the most controversial. Many believe the theory was one of the most sustained theories today (livescience). Most think as Darwins theory as survival of the fittest but that is slightly misleading. “It refers to an organism’s fitness and athletic ability, not ability to reproduce and survive” said anthropologist Briana Pobiner. Even though Darwin knew his theory he did not know how it worked. I find his story inspiring, he triumphed over sickness, family death, and pressure but he still persevered and made his theory that made the foundation of heredity and genetics and changed modern science.