Charles Darwin was an English naturalist, and the father of the theory of evolution by natural selection.
He was born in Shrewsbury, England on February 12th 1809 to a wealthy bourgeois family . As a boy, he showed a great interest in nature , and collected insects and minerals.
At the suggestion of his teachers at Christ College, Cambridge, in 1831 he embarked on the Beagle, a ship bound for the South Seas for scientific purposes.
During the expedition, Darwin began to study exotic plants and animals , and to collect fossils of extinct animals . His observations on the fauna of the Galapagos Islands proved particularly important. Darwin noted that tortoises living on different islands had different eating habits and different physical characteristics .
In 1836 he returned home , and for the next 20 years elaborated upon his theory of the evolution of the species. The idea that the morphology of living things changes over time, however, was not new. In 1809, the French naturalist Lamarck argued that the structures of organisms evolve over generations depending on their use. For instance , according to Lamarck , the long neck of a giraffe must be the result of its ancestors tendency to try and reach the tops the trees to eat leale.
Darwin did, however, introduce the concept of natural selection. According to Darwin’s theory, members of the same species may have different features and some of these may prove to be decisive in the fight for survival. According to Darwin, giraffes in the past did not all have long necks. Those equipped with this feature, however , were able to eat the leaves that other giraffes could not reach , and thus had access to available food. Therefore, these animals survived more easily and passed this trait on to their offspring.
This way nature selects the characters which are most likely to survive, thus allowing the species to evolve.
This theory is contained in Darwin’s 2 most important works: On The Origin of Species , a resounding success, and The Descent of Man And Selection In Relation To Sex. These two treaties elicited a strong reaction as Darwin not only contradicts the biblical account of creation, but argues that man is just an animal species like any other which evolved from apelike ancestors .
Darwinian theory is mainly opposed to religious teachings, which do not accept the idea that man is only an evolved monkey, and not a creature made in the the image and likeness of God Darwin , however, ignored the controversy as much as possible and continued his studies , writing several treaties on botany .
He died at Down House on April 19th, 1882 , at the age of 73 , and received a state funeral .
His theory is still the subject of debate and controversy , not only in religious circles , but also in the scientific community.