Though he developed many theories while observing animal and plant species, Charles Darwin is best known for proposing the theory of natural selection. His pivotal work is “On the Origin of Species”.
Darwin was initially a medical student at Edinburgh University, though he eventually decided to pursue the study of marine invertebrates instead, before leaving there and entering the University of Cambridge. In 1831, Darwin graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in theology.
2. HMS Beagle
The HMS Beagle, captained by Robert FitzRoy, was the ship that carried Darwin around the world for five years, cataloging, researching and reporting on marine life, new insect species and the like. As a naturalist, he published a number of notebooks containing detailed notes on the observations that he made of animal and plant life.
3. Introducing Natural Selection
Before publishing his pivotal work, Darwin published an introductory paper on the theory of natural selection. The paper was first introduced to Linnaean Society, a scientific organization.
4. “On the Origin of Species”
“On the Origin of Species” was published in 1859 and contained his complete theory of natural selection. The full title was, “On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” It was published nearly 20 years after his Beagle voyage.
5. “Survival of the Fittest
Darwin’s theory of natural selection has paraphrased to “survival of the fittest”, though Darwin did not come up with this phrase. Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” and extended Darwin’s theory of natural selection into the realm of sociology, ethics and economics.
6. Descendants of Apes
In 1871, Darwin published his next work, “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex”, where he stated that humans are descendants of apes.
7. “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”
Darwin published, “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,” in 1872.
8. Unpopular Beliefs and Theories
Many were unhappy with what Darwin’s theories were implying because, at the time of Darwin’s publications, most people believed that species were eternally unchanging. The proposed change due to natural selection contradicted orthodox theological opinion. The implication that humans had evolved just like every other species in the animal kingdom was unpopular among religious leaders.
9. The Beagle Voyage
Darwin’s participation in the Beagle voyage was instrumental if not the sole cause for his derivation of the theory of natural selection. Interestingly enough, there were many different factors that could have prevented him from going on that trip at all. First, his father prohibited him from taking the trip for fear that Darwin would be lead away from a future in the clergy. Secondly, he was almost denied the privileged of being selected to accompany the captain in the Beagle trip and was only offered the trip after Captain FitzRoy’s 1st choice declined the trip.
10. Robert FitzRoy
Robert FitzRoy was the captain of the HMS Beagle. He and Darwin, became close friends and on Darwin’s 25th birthday, February 12, 1834, Captain FitzRoy named a mountain after Darwin. The mountain is the highest peak in Tierra del Fuego. Darwin also had three other mountains named after him in California, Tasmania and Antarctica.