Charles Darwin Online

Charles Darwin Biography

Charles DarwinCharles Darwin is arguably the most important naturalist that the world has ever known. Through his works, Darwin gave compelling explanations of the origin and evolution of the numerous types of living things in the world. His theories were supported by ample scientific evidences, which were gathered during his travels around the world.

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England and died at the Down House in Kent on April 19, 1882. He was born to Robert and Susannah Darwin. Robert was a successful physician whose father, Erasmus Darwin, had also been a physician but had made his name as a poet of the natural world. Susannah Wedgwood came from a family of potters; her father, Josiah Wedgwood, had made a small fortune making high-quality pottery. Both sides of Darwin's family were liberal in their politics and indifferent in their religion.

Darwin spent his childhood playing at The Mount, the Darwin home and estate in Shrewsbury. He was schooled at home by his sister Caroline until he was eight years old and Susannah died. He then spent a year at a day school and transferred to a boarding school, the Shrewsbury School, only a mile away from The Mount. There he studied, getting acceptable but unremarkable grades, until age sixteen, when his father sent him to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. Darwin focused on collecting, hunting, and naturalizing instead of medicine. It was there that he first learned to study and collect beetles. The marine biologist Robert Grant took him under his wing. After two years, it was obvious that Darwin would not become a doctor, so with the help of his father Darwin transferred to the University of Cambridge to study for the clergy of the Anglican Church. There he became friends with the older botanist John Henslow.

Soon after graduating, in 1831, Darwin was offered a position on board the HMS Beagle, a ship that was mapping the coast of South America on a two or three year voyage around the world. He eagerly accepted the opportunity and spent the next five years on board the Beagle, taking copious notes and sending thousands of samples and specimens back to Henslow in England for safe- keeping.

When Darwin returned to England he found that Henslow and other geologists, zoologists, and botanists were fascinated by the specimens he had collected. He spent the next ten years cataloging and describing the discoveries he had made on his journey. He wrote books on coral reefs and volcanic islands, various papers, and a journal of his voyage. While working on these, he also started to think about a deeper, more important problem: the origin of species. He opened his first notebook on the topic in 1837, more than twenty years before he would finally be confident enough of his new theory of "evolution by natural selection" to publish it.

In 1839, Darwin married Emma Wedgwood, his cousin, and they moved in to a house in London where Darwin could focus on his work. Unfortunately, his health started to fail mysteriously, so they moved to the country. They lived in a small village where Darwin could find peace and quiet. After completing his work on the results of the Beagle voyage, still not ready to publish his thoughts on evolution, Darwin turned to what seemed at first like a small, insignificant problem: the classification of different kinds of barnacles. Darwin soon became entangled in the enormous project of dissecting and describing all of the barnacles of the world for what eventually became a four- volume work. Eight years later, in 1854, he finally finished, and was able to turn back to the problem of evolution.

In 1857, Alfred Russell Wallace sent Darwin a paper regarding the evolution of species. Wallace's theory was very similar to Darwin's. Wallace's paper and a sketch of Darwin's theory were presented at the Linnean Society. Darwin decided to produce an "abstract" of a longer book on evolution that he was working on, so as not to let anyone else take credit for an idea he had been developing for more than twenty years. The abstract was published in 1859 as On the Origin of Species, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It was an immediate sensation, selling out the first printing within a day. Debates over the meaning of the theory for the nature of humanity began, though Darwin himself remained above the fray in his self-imposed isolation at Down House. His friends Joseph Hooker, the botanist, and especially Thomas Henry Huxley, the zoologist, defended his theory to the world while he continued to do research.

In the 1860s, Darwin worked on three books. One was about variation under domestication, which he saw as being parallel to variation in the wild. Another was about the evolution of humanity and the role of sexual selection. The final one regarded the expression of emotions. The book on humanity and sexual selection, The Descent of Man, was published in 1871. Darwin expected it to cause a sensation with its claims that humans were descended from other animals, but most of the thunder had been stolen twelve years ago by the Origin. In 1872, The Expression of Emotions in Animals and Man was published.

In his last decade, Darwin turned away from evolution and focused on the garden. His research on climbing plants and the geological role of earthworms turned his workshop into a virtu

Charles Darwin Quotes

A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
Charles Darwin

A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.
Charles Darwin

A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives - of approving of some and disapproving of others.
Charles Darwin

A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, - a mere heart of stone.
Charles Darwin

An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.
Charles Darwin

Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.
Charles Darwin

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world.
Charles Darwin

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.
Charles Darwin

How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children.
Charles Darwin

I am turned into a sort of machine for observing facts and grinding out conclusions.
Charles Darwin

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.
Charles Darwin

I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection.
Charles Darwin

I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.
Charles Darwin

I love fools' experiments. I am always making them.
Charles Darwin

If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.
Charles Darwin

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
Charles Darwin

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
Charles Darwin

It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.
Charles Darwin

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
Charles Darwin

Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits.
Charles Darwin

Man tends to increase at a greater rate than his means of subsistence.
Charles Darwin

My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts.
Charles Darwin

On the ordinary view of each species having been independently created, we gain no scientific explanation.
Charles Darwin

The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.
Charles Darwin

The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.
Charles Darwin

The very essence of instinct is that it's followed independently of reason.
Charles Darwin

To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.
Charles Darwin

We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.
Charles Darwin

We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities... still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.
Charles Darwin

What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel work of nature!
Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin Facts

Basic Charles Darwin Facts

Ten Fun Facts About Charles Darwin

1. Darwin Once Ate an Owl

Darwin was an inquisitive man. Sure he was curious about nature and all that science stuff, but he’s also a guy. So when he saw strange animals, he often wondered what they would taste like. The difference between Darwin and the rest of us is that he actually ate ‘em!

While he was at Cambridge University, Darwin joined the “Gourmet Club,” which met once a week to eat animals not often found in menus, like hawk and bittern (a type of wading bird in the heron family). His zeal for weird food, however, broke down when he tried an old brown owl, which he found “indescribable.”

But that one episode didn’t end Darwin’s weird gastronomic proclivities. During the voyage of the Beagle, he ate armadillos and agoutis (the rodents were “best meat I ever tasted,” he said).

In Patagonia, South America, Darwin ate a puma (it tasted like veal) and an ostrich-like bird called a Rhea. Actually, Darwin had been looking for this particular species of Rhea, only to find that he had been eating one all along. He sent back the uneaten parts to the Zoological Society in London, which named the bird Rhea darwinii after him!

In the Galapagos, Darwin ate iguanas and giant tortoises. He liked it so much he loaded up 48 of them aboard the Beagle, to be eaten on the journey back!

Sources: Darwin’s Dinner at Quite Interesting | The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin by Charles and Francis Darwin

2. Darwin Wanted to Be a Doctor, But He Couldn’t Stand the Sight of Blood

Darwin attended Edinburgh University in hopes of becoming a physician like his father, but soon abandoned the idea because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. So he decided to study divinity instead and become a rural cleric, which would fit his hobby of being a naturalist just fine  (Source).

3. Darwin’s Nose Almost Cost Him The Voyage on the Beagle

The Captain of HMS Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, was about to embark on a survey expedition to South America, but he was afraid of the stress and loneliness of such a voyage (indeed, they have driven the previous captain of the ship to commit suicide). So FitzRoy asked his superiors for a well-educated and scientific gentleman companion to come along as an unpaid naturalist whom he could treat as an equal. The professors at Cambridge recommended then 22-years old Charles Darwin for the trip.

At first, Charles’ father Robert objected to the appointment – after all, such a voyage would take years and would get in the way of him being a clergyman. But Darwin’s uncle was able to persuade him not only to let his son go, but also support him financially.

Darwin and FitzRoy got together well, but later Darwin found out that he almost didn’t get picked for the voyage … on account of the shape of his nose!

“Afterwards on becoming very intimate with Fitz-Roy, I heard that I had run a very narrow risk of being rejected [as the Beagle's naturalist], on account of the shape of my nose! He was an ardent desciple of Lavater, and was convinced that he could judge a man’s character by the outline of his features; and he doubted wheather anyone with my nose could possess sufficient energy and determination for the voyage. But I think he was afterwards well-satisfied that my nose had spoken falsely.” (Source: Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters, by Charles Darwin – 1902)

4. Best Birthday Gift Ever: a Mountain!

For Darwin’s 25th birthday on February 12, 1834, Captain FitzRoy named a mountain after him. Yup, Mount Darwin. It is the highest peak in Tierra del Fuego.

A year earlier, Darwin and his shipmates were on a small island in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago when a huge mass of ice fell from the face of a glacier and plunged into the ocean, causing a huge wave. Darwin ran to the shore and saved the ship’s boats from being swept away. For saving everyone from being marooned, FitzRoy named the area Darwin Sound.

And as if one mountain isn’t enough, Darwin got three more named after him: There are other Darwin Mountains located in California, Tasmania, and Antarctica.

5. The Full Title of “On The Origin of Species”

You probably know that Darwin’s most famous work, outlining his theory of evolution, is On the Origin of Species.

But what most people don’t know is the full title: On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It was published in 1859, twenty years after his epic voyage (yes, he took his sweet time in publishing his work, which he only did because Alfred Russell Wallace came to the same conclusion of evolution and Darwin didn’t want to be left behind). A total of 1250 copies were printed and it went on sale for 15 shillings. It’s now valued at around $23,000.

In the 6th edition, the title was changed to The Origin of Species.

6. Darwin Didn’t Invent the Phrase “Survival of the Fittest”

That was Herbert Spencer, a philosopher and contemporary of Charles Darwin. After reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Spencer wrote Principles of Biology in 1864. He coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” and extended Darwin’s theory of natural selection into the realm of sociology, ethics, and economics.

Darwin himself used the phrase in his 5th edition of The Origin and gave full credit to Spencer.

7. Darwin Married His First Cousin

Darwin was a logical man, and he approached the important issue of marriage like he would any problem. In The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Darwin made careful pro and con list of marriage to his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

Under the title “This is the Question,” Darwin wrote in the “Marry” Column:

Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — —better than a dog anyhow. — Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time. —

W My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.

… and in the “Not Marry” column:

No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.— What is the use of working ‘in’ without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives

Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness & idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many children forced to gain one’s bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)

Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —

He concluded that he should marry, and wrote:

Marry – Marry – Marry Q.E.D.

It is ironic that the man who gave rise to the importance of genetics in natural selection chose to marry his first cousin (Darwin wasn’t alone in this – Einstein also married his cousin), but one thing is for sure: Darwin cleverly avoided adding more relatives to visit!

8. How Darwin Lost His Faith in Christianity

Darwin was actually quite a religious fellow when he began his voyage on the Beagle (he was fresh out of divinity school). Aboard the ship, Darwin was known to quote passages from the bible to rowdy sailors on board.

But something happened during the trip that made him less religious. Darwin saw slavery firsthand as well as the wretched living conditions of the natives of Tierra del Fuego and wondered why God allowed such inhumanities to happen (Source). Darwin became skeptical of the history in the Old Testament, yet still believed in the existence of God.

Darwin lost his faith when his daughter Annie caught scarlet fever and died at the age of 10. He wrote “We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age … Oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & and shall ever love her dear joyous face.” The heartsick Emma filled a small box with Annie’s small treasures and kept it until her own death. (Source)

From then on, Darwin continued to help the local church with parish work, but would go on walks while his family attended church on Sundays. When asked about his religious views, Darwin denied that he was an atheist, but called himself agnostic.

In 1915, Lady Hope claimed to have visited Darwin and witnessed his deathbed conversion back to Christianity. This was refuted by his children, who noted that his last words were to Emma: “I am not the least afraid of death – Remember what a good wife you have been – Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me.”  (Source)

9. Darwin was a Backgammon Fiend

After his return from South America, Darwin developed a life-long illness that left him severely debilitated or bed-ridden for long periods of time. Darwin consulted with more than 20 doctors, but the cause of his disease was never discovered (Wikipedia has an interesting list of possible illnesses).

Over the years, with the help of Emma, Darwin developed a strict routine that seemed to help in alleviating the symptoms. has an interesting glimpse into what everyday life was like for Darwin.

Of note is Darwin’s strict schedule for playing backgammon. Every night between 8 and 8:30 PM, Darwin would play 2 games of backgammon with Emma. He even kept score of every game he played for years!

10. Church of England Finally Apologized to Darwin

When Darwin’s work on the theory of evolution came out, the church attacked him vociferously. Now, 126 years after his death, The Church of England has apologized to Darwin:

Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practice the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends. But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests. Good religion needs to work constructively with good science – and I dare to suggest that the opposite may be true as well. (Source)

Charles Darwin Timeline

1809 12 February Born in Shrewsbury, England, the son of Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah, nee Wedgwood.

1813 In the summer goes to Gros, near Abegele, in Wales, for sea-bathing with family, some of his earliest recollections coming from this.

1814-1816 No information about his being away from The Mount.

1817 Attends day school in Shrewsbury run by George Case, Unitarian minister. His mother dies.

1818 In June goes to Samuel Butler’s school at Shrewsbury as a boarder (stayed 7 years). Butler was the grandfather of Samuel Butler (1835-1902) the science writer and critic of Darwinism.

1819 July Summer holiday at Plas Edwards, Towyn, N. Wales.

1820 July went on riding tour with Erasmus brother to Pistyll Rhayader, N. Wales.

1822 June went to Downton, Wilts with sister Caroline. July went to Montgomery & Bishop's Castle, Shropshire with sister Susan.

1824 Visits Llandudno, Wales, with school friend John Price.

1825 17 June taken away early from Shrewsbury School by his father. On 22 October matriculates with his brother Erasmus at the University of Edinburgh. Registers for medical courses. First lecture on 26 October. Lodged at 11 Lothian St.

1826 June takes a walking tour in North Wales. In the winter meets Dr Robert Grant (1793-1874), naturalist and Lamarckian, and examines marine animals. 10 November elected to Plinian Society.

1827 27 March reads papers on marine animals to Plinian Society. Leaves Edinburgh in April. Visits Belfast and Dublin in spring. Visited Paris in May with Wedgwood cousins, his only time in France. This summer he spends much time at Woodhouse, the home of the Mostyn Owens. On 15 October is admitted to Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, but does not move there until January 1828. Reads for an ordinary degree, the usual preliminary for theological training (which was never undertaken).

1828 Becomes friendly with his cousin William Darwin Fox at Christ's. Is a keen entomologist and collector of beetles. Attends John Stevens Henslow’s botany classes.

1829 Travels to Wales to collect insects with entomologist Frederick William Hope. Spends Michaelmas term in Cambridge. Entomologises with Leonard Jenyns; Friday evenings at Henslow's. July his name appears in Stephens' Illustrations of British Entomology. December three weeks in London with Erasmus. Entomological visits to Hope and Stephens.

1830 January in Cambridge, reading for 'Little Go'. August collects insects in North Wales with Hope. March passes 'Little Go'. August entomological tour in North Wales with Hope and T. C. Eyton.

1831 Passes his BA examinations on 22 January without honours and remains at Cambridge for a further two terms to fulfill residence requirement. Spends much time with Henslow, and in August accompanies Adam Sedgwick, Professor of Geology, on his annual field trip to Wales. In August he returns to Shrewsbury from Wales to find a letter from Henslow inviting him to join the Beagle voyage. Darwin’s father objects, but his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood II, persuades him otherwise. Meets Captain Robert FitzRoy (1805-65) and makes preparations for the voyage. Begins Beagle diary. After two false starts, the ship leaves Plymouth on 27 December.

[For a complete day-by-day itinerary of the Beagle voyage click here]

1832 16 January, Darwin makes his first landing on a tropical shore at St Jago, Cape Verde Islands. Field notebooks begin to be used. From February 1832 to May 1834 the Beagle surveys the east coast of South America. In December arrives in Tierra del Fuego.

1833 March, Beagle visits Falkland Islands. From April to July around Maldonado, August to December in Rio Negro and Montevideo.

1834 Early part of the year is spent surveying in Tierra del Fuego and another visit to the Falkland Islands. April to May Darwin and FitzRoy make an inland expedition along the River Santa Cruz. Repeated ports of call in Tierra del Fuego, eventually leaving the Straits of Magellan in June. From June 1834 to September 1835 the Beagle surveys the west coast of South America. Calls at Chiloé Island. From end of July to November Darwin resides in Valparaiso, returns to Chiloé until February 1835.

1835 Spends February in Valdivia and early March in Concepcion, makes long excursion northwards from March to September, calling at Copiapo, Iquique and Callao. Beagle departs Lima on 7 September for the Galapagos Archipelago. Darwin spends 16 September to 20 October exploring the archipelago, 15-26 November in Tahiti, 21-30 November in New Zealand. December Henslow prints extracts from his letters.

1836 Beagle calls at Sydney in January, Hobart in February, Cocos and Keeling Islands in April, followed by Mauritius. Visits Cape of Good Hope from 31 May to 18 June. Writes first article to be published with Fitzroy. The ship makes way across Atlantic ocean calling at St Helena and Ascension Islands in July. Returns briefly to Brazil in August to check some readings. Calls at Azores in September. 2 October, Beagle drops anchor at Falmouth, England, and on 4 October Darwin returns home to Shrewsbury. Begins to publish scientific papers.

1836-1837 16 December to 6 March 1837 lives in lodgings in Fitzwilliam Street, Cambridge.

1837 In March takes lodgings in 36 Great Marlborough Street, London. Gives papers at the Geological Society of London. Arranges for his Beagle specimens to be identified. Begins publication of The Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle (1838-43). Becomes friendly with the geologist Charles Lyell. The naturalist John Gould identifies his bird specimens. In July opens his first notebook on the transmutation of species.

1838 Works intensely on a variety of natural history and geological topics. Finishes a paper on the geology of Glen Roy in Scotland. On 28 September he read 'for amusement' T. R. Malthus Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). 'Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work' (Autobiography). On 11 November proposes marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgwood (1808-96). In the last weeks of the year moves to a house in Gower Street, London.

1839 Marries Emma Wedgwood on 29 January. Publishes Journal of Researches, later known as Voyage of the Beagle. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. First child, a son William, is born. He and Emma eventually have ten children, seven of whom reach adulthood. Disseminates Questions about the breeding of animals.

1840 Publishes paper On the formation of mould. The book on this subject would only be published in 1881.

1841 Writes cousin Fox that, when finished with current projects, will write a book to be entitled 'Varieties & Species'. Publishes some geological articles such as On the distribution of erratic boulders.

1842 Makes a short geological excursion in Wales. Settles with his wife and young family in Down House, in the village of Downe in Kent. Publishes The structure and distribution of coral reefs. On a visit to his wife’s family home, Maer in Staffordshire, makes a brief pencil sketch of his theory of ‘descent with modification'.

1843 Building works at Down House. Continues work on volcanic islands.

1844 Expands sketch into a longer Essay. Writes a memorandum to Emma Darwin requesting that this essay should be published if he should die unexpectedly, giving the names of several friends who would serve as possible editors. Publishes Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of HMS Beagle.

1845 Expands and revises Journal of Researches for a second edition. Begins a lifelong relationship with the London publishing house of John Murray.

1846 Publishes Geological Observations on South America. October begins work on barnacles.

1847 Continues work on barnacles. Visits Shrewsbury February to March, June British Association for Advancement of Science at Oxford. Later returns home in July. 22 October to 5 November in Shrewsbury.

1848 November, his father Robert Waring Darwin dies. Goes to Shrewsbury for the funeral but arrives too late to attend.

1849 March to June the whole family reside in Malvern Wells so that he can take the water cure. Publishes chapter on Geology in A manual of scientific enquiry; prepared for the use of Her Majesty's Navy.

1850 Working on barnacles. 11-18 June visits Malvern Wells.


1851 March takes oldest daughter Annie to Malvern where she dies of fever on 23 March, aged ten. In July the family visits the Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park. Publishes the first of two volumes on barnacles, A Monograph on the sub-class Cirripedia, and the first of two volumes on fossil barnacles, A Monograph on the fossil Lepadidae.

1852 Spent year working on barnacles (Sessile Cirripedes). 24 March to Rugby for a day and thence to Shrewsbury returning home 1 April. 11 September to Leith Hill Place to visit Josiah Wedgwoods, returning home on 16th.

1853 Spent 'Whole year preparing M.S of Sessile Cirripedes for press.'

1854 Publishes concluding volumes on barnacles, A Monograph on the sub-class Cirripedia, and A Monograph on the fossil Balanidae and Verrucidae. Immediately begins full-time work on species.

1855 'March & April. Employed chiefly in comparing seeds—trying experiments in salting seeds.— & reading.—'

1856 On Charles Lyell’s advice begins writing up his views for a projected big book called 'Natural Selection'.

1857 Whole year spent writing chapters of species book.

1858 In June receives a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace who is collecting specimens in Indonesia. Wallace encloses an essay on species and varieties that mirrors Darwin’s own theory of natural selection. 'I never saw a more striking coincidence. ..If Wallace had my MS sketch written out in 1842 he could not have made a better short abstract!' Baby Charles dies of scarlet fever on 28 June. Extracts from Darwin and Wallace’s writings presented by Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker at the Linnean Society of London on 1 July. Neither Darwin nor Wallace attend. Papers published in Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. Visits Isle of Wight where he begins an 'abstract' of his views for publication.

1859 On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life is published in London on 24 November by John Murray. On publication day Darwin is taking the water cure in Ilkley, Yorkshire.

1860 Publishes 2nd edition of Origin. Foreign editions appear. Begins work on Variation book.

1861 Continued work on Variation book. Published 3rd edition of Origin. Began work on Orchid book.

1862 Begins to grow a beard after an episode of ill health. Publishes On the Various Contrivances by which British and foreign Orchids are fertilised by Insects, and On the Good Effects of Intercrossing. Meets Alfred Russel Wallace on his return from Indonesia.

1863 Seriously ill, consults many medical men about his symptoms. Ill health continues until spring 1866.

1864 In November awarded the Copley medal of the Royal Society of London, its highest scientific honour.

1865 Publishes an article on climbing plants in the journal of the Linnean Society of London, ‘On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants’. Later published as a book in 1865.

1866 Publishes 4th edition of Origin. Continued work on Variation book. Sits for the portrait, right.

1867 Completes Variation MS. Distributes several Queries about expression.

1868 July Visits Isle of Wight and meets Alfred Lord Tennyson and Julia Margaret Cameron. Is photographed by Cameron. Publishes The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.

1869 Publishes 5th edition of Origin. Continues work on descent of man.

1870 Whole year working on descent of man. Various visits to relatives.

1871 Publishes The Descent of Man, and Selection in relation to Sex. Engages in dispute with St George Mivart, adds a new chapter to sixth edition of Origin of Species to rebut Mivart’s claims. Daughter Henrietta marries Richard Litchfield and moves to Bryanston Street in London where Darwin becomes a regular visitor.

1872 Publishes 6th edition of Origin. 13 February to 21 March rents London holiday house at 9 Devonshire St. In October takes a family holiday in a rented house in Sevenoaks, Kent. Is impressed with the veranda and on returning to Down House builds one there. Publishes The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

1873 Attends a soiree at George Eliot’s house. Worked on climbing plants and 2nd edition of Descent of man.

1874 A séance is held at his brother’s house in January but Darwin does not attend. ‘The Lord have mercy on us all, if we have to believe in such rubbish.’ 2nd editions of Descent and Coral Reefs published.

1875 Publishes Insectivorous Plants. Gives evidence to the Royal Commission on Subjecting Live Animals to Experiments. Sits to the portrait painter Walter William Ouless, for the family. A copy later made by Ouless for Christ’s College, Cambridge, etched by Paul Rajon. ‘I look a very venerable, acute melancholy old dog’.

1876 During the summer begins to write an autobiographical memoir for his children and future grandchildren. ‘I know that it would have interested me greatly to have read even so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather written by himself, and what he thought and did, and how he worked.’ This memoir published in edited form in Francis Darwin’s Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887) Publishes The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom. In September Darwin’s first grandchild is born to Francis and Amy Darwin. Amy dies in childbirth and Francis goes to live with his parents at Down House with the baby, Bernard Darwin. Francis becomes Darwin’s secretary and botanical assistant.

1877 Awarded Honorary LLD from Cambridge University. Publishes The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the same Species and ‘A biographical sketch of an Infant’ in the journal Mind which was written up from notes made in 1839-41 on his firstborn, William Darwin.

1878 'The whole of this last year [working on] on the circumnutating Movements of plants & bloom.'

1879 In August takes a family holiday in Coniston in the Lake District. Meets John Ruskin. Publishes a biographical study of his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin. Translated from the German by W.S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin, followed by bitter controversy with Samuel Butler after he accuses Darwin of plagiarism. Is painted in oils for the Cambridge Philosophical Society by William Blake Richmond, dismissed by Emma Darwin as ‘quite horrid, so fierce & so dirty’.

1880 Publishes The Power of Movement in Plants…Assisted by Francis Darwin.

1881 July, takes another holiday in the Lake District, based in Ullswater. In August his brother Erasmus dies, and is buried in Down churchyard. Publishes The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with observations on their Habits. Bestows money to Kew Gardens for publication of Index Kewensis. Arranges a civil list pension for Wallace. Defends right of scientists to experiment on live animals.

1882 Dies 19 April, aged seventy-three. Buried in Westminster Abbey, 26 April. See his last will and testament here.


Charles Darwin Books: On the Origin of Species

FREE for Kindle: On the Origin of Species

The classic that exploded into public controversy, revolutionized the course of science, and continues to transform our views of the world. 


The Origin of Species, 1876 [Paperback]

There are a lot of editions of "Origin of Species" in print. I like this one, for two reasons. The first is that it is the First Edition of "Origin of Species", the one originally published by Darwin that first described the theory of evolution. Many other published versions of the "Origin of Species" are of the later editions, not the first. 

The other thing I really like about this version is that it includes the two essays that Darwin wrote before he published "Origin of Species". The earlier essays give a picture of how Darwin's thinking changed over time, and how the theory of evolution itself evolved. Among other things, Darwin gave much greater weight to "saltations", or large sudden changes, in his earlier writings than he did in "Origin of Species". It is also interesting to see how various paragraphs in "Origin of Species" first appear in the earlier essays, and how they were modified over time. 
~ Amazon Reviewer

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