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Living Paintings

Science Factsheet – Charles Darwin

Portrait of Charles Darwin, a bald man with a full beard.

Name: Charles Darwin

Field of science: Evolution

Born: 12th February 1809 in Shropshire, died 19th April 1882

Why is he famous? His theory of evolution by natural selection – Darwin’s book, Origin of Species was a worldwide bestseller and changed the way we think about where we as humans came from.

Ok, so what is natural selection? It describes how living things (organisms) adapt over time to their environment to ensure their survival. They do this by passing on their best characteristics to their offspring through their genes.

Did everyone agree with his views? In short, no. Darwin’s evolutionary theories put world religions, especially Christianity, in a spin. If we evolved from other species that effectively means God didn’t create us, or all the animals on earth. Adam and Eve, who?

Anything else? While studying for a career in the church, Darwin spent his free-time collecting beetles – he was passionate about biology.

What did he look like? Big beard? Furrowed brow? Pretty much, although most images available show Darwin as long in the tooth, he was of course an active scientist throughout his life (see image above).

You may not know: Darwin initially studied medicine but found surgery too stomach-churning to bear so he gave it up to train to be a clergyman at Cambridge University before he turned to figuring out the small matter (I think not) of evolution.

References:

GCSE Bitesize. Natural Selection.

BBC iWonder. Charles Darwin: Evolution and the story of our species.

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