Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 to 19 April 1882) was a British
naturalist who ranks among the most famous (and to some infamous)
scientists in history. Remarkably, long before genetics and the
copying mechanism of
genetic material through DNA were understood, Charles Darwin’s
concept of natural and sexual selection (or evolution) was mostly
correct. Evolution endures as the organizing principle of all
interest in natural history arose as he studied medicine and theology
at university. Darwin's five-year voyage on the Beagle and provided
the empirical evidence for developing his theory of natural selection
by 1838. Knowing that others had been severely punished for such
"heretical" ideas, he only confided in his closest friends
and continued his research. By 1858, however, knowing that Alfred
Russel Wallace had developed a similar theory, he was finally
forced to publish his controversial theory.
1859 book On the Origin
of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation
of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (usually shorteded
to The Origin of Species) explicated how evolution by common descent
explained the diversity he observed in nature.
the case of every species, many different checks, acting at different
periods of life, and during different seasons or years, probably
come into play; some one check or some few being generally the
most potent, but all concur in determining the average number
or even the existence of the species. In some cases it can be
shown that widely-different checks act on the same species
in different districts. When we look at the plants and
bushes clothing an entangled bank, we are tempted
to attribute their proportional numbers and kinds to what we call
chance. But how false a view is this! Every one has heard that
when an American forest is cut down, a very different vegetation
springs up; but it has been observed that ancient Indian ruins
in the Southern United States, which must formerly have been cleared
of trees, now display the same beautiful diversity and proportion
of kinds as in the surrounding virgin forest. What a struggle
must have gone on during long centuries between the several kinds
of trees, each annually scattering its seeds by the thousand;
what war between insect and insect - between insects, snails,
and other animals with birds and beasts of prey - all striving
to increase, all feeding on each other, or on the trees, their
seeds and seedlings, or on the other plants which first clothed
the ground and thus checked the growth of the trees! Throw up
a handful of feathers, and all must fall to the ground according
to definite laws; but how simple is the problem where each shall
fall compared to that of the action and reaction of the innumerable
plants and animals which have determined, in the course of centuries,
the proportional numbers and kinds of trees now growing on the
old Indian ruins!"
are a few more excerpts from Origin of Species, and other quotes
of Charles Darwin:
"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge:
it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively
assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense
of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best
to their environment."
"Nothing before had ever made me thoroughly realise, though
I had read various scientific books, that science consists in
grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn
when on shore, & wandering in the sublime forests, surrounded
by views more gorgeous than even Claude ever imagined, I enjoy
a delight which none but those who have experienced it can understand
- If it is to be done, it must be by studying Humboldt"
have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if
useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection"
have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so remarkable
in some clever men, for instance Huxley"
will now discuss in a little more detail the Struggle for Existence."
"The expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the
Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally
As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between
conflicting vague probabilities."
Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far
more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought
that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation
after such long-continued slow progress"
what little one can to increase the general stock of knowledge
is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood
can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems
of universe[s,] to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect,
we wish to be created at once by special act"
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"
am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it
appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments
against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on
the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual
illumination of men's minds, which follow[s] from the advance
of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid
writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.
I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it
would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct
attacks on religion"
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"
suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for
adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different
amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic
aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems,
I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason
tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex
eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful
to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does
vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which
is certainly the case; and if variation or modification in the
organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of
life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex
eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by
our imagination, can hardly be considered real"
with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the
most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other
men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect
which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the
solar system- with all these exalted powers- Man still bears in
his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."