Darwin Folk Hero - February
Folk heroes and folk heroines are men and women who have pushed against limits to overcome fears and doubts. Here is an example of one man who did not fit the mold his society had created for him. He struck out on his own and followed his own beliefs and thoughts. His journey lit the way for our understanding of evolution.
This Naturalist and Geologist Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in the tiny merchant town of Shrewsbury, England. His early interests in nature took him away from the medical education that had been planned for him. He chose instead to spend his time investigating marine invertebrates.
By 1831, upon his graduation from Christ's College, his mentor John Stevens Henslow recommended him for a naturalist’s position aboard the HMS Beagle. Over the course of the five-year sea voyage, he collected a variety of natural specimens, including birds, plants and fossils.
During the travels, he noticed similarities among species all over the globe. He also made note of the variations of each and where they were found. Over time, his observations led him to the theory that they had gradually evolved from common ancestors. He came to believe that species survived through a process called "natural selection." In short, species that successfully adapted to meet the changing requirements of their natural habitat thrived, while those that failed to evolve and reproduce died off.
In 1858, after years of further scientific investigation, Darwin publicly introduced his revolutionary theory of evolution in a letter read at a meeting of the Linnean Society. On November 24, 1859, he published a detailed explanation of his theory in his best-known work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Although it was not widely acclaimed when written and received mixed reviews from the Church of England, the book went on to become quite popular.
He went on to write other books and to further expand upon the ideas he first discovered as a young man.