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Great Scientists

Charles Darwin

1809 - 1882

Portrait: Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is one of the most famous of all scientists, and a true hero of science. His theory explaining the mechanisms of evolution were published in his book On the Origin of Species (1859), which launched a storm of controversy from religious dogma adherents.

  • Nationality
  • English

  • Subject
  • Biology, naturalist, geologist

  • Fields
  • Evolution

  • Distinctions
  • Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, where only great scientists, such as Newton and Rutherford, are interred.

  • Publications
  • On the Origin of Species, 1859.

    The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871.

    The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 1871.

    Many books on plants and earthworms.

  • Laws
  • Law of Natural Selection

  • Theories
  • Survival of the Species

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Proofs of survival of the fittest. Observations of finch beak adaptation, Galapagos Islands expedition.

The impact of Darwin's work was to brush aside the prevailing ideas concerning 'transmutation of species' and fossil genesis, but it was not until the 1930s that science could explain the actual mechanisms behind evolution (genetic mutation).

Darwin famously developed his ideas during a long sea voyage aboard the Beagle, which spent time in South America and the Galapagos Islands, where species diversification was apparent. Darwin's observations of the differences between similar species of birds allowed him to conjecture that adaptation to different environmental conditions was an continuous process.

Voyage of the Beagle

Darwin backed up his theory with decades of painstaking experimentation. He did not possess the modern understanding of genetics, but nevertheless had determined that mutation led to adaptations within species, explaining the change in species over time, and the fossil record.