English Literature Of The 19th Century:
Thomas Babington Macaulay
Scientific Literature Of The Early Victorian Period
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Periodical Literature And Criticism
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Charles Robert Darwin
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Charles Robert Darwin, the greatest man of science of his time, was born at Shrewsbury in 1809. He was the son of Dr. Robert W. Darwin, a physician, and grandson of Dr. Erasmus Darwin, who wrote a didactic poem called "The Botanic Garden." Charles went to Glasgow to study medicine, and afterwards to Cambridge, where, under the influence of Prof. Henslow, he acquired a liking for zoölogy and botany. On taking his degree in 1831, he received an appointment without pay on the Beagle, a vessel about to sail for South America on a scientific cruise. Five years were spent in the Pacific Ocean, during which Darwin laid the foundation of his theory. When he re-turned the Government granted him £1,000 to prepare a full account of his observations and discoveries. The first result was a very entertaining "Narrative of the Surveying Voyages," which was followed by the "Zoölogy" and some geological treatises, including one on "The Structure of Coral Reefs" (1842). Darwin's health was much impaired by his voyage. In 1839 he married his cousin, and having a moderate fortune, he selected a house at Down, in Kent, where he was able to carry on his ingenious experiments in regard to pigeons and domesticated animals. In 1844 he wrote a sketch of his conclusions on the formation of species by natural selection. Later he communicated a paper on his views to a few scientists, but in 1858 he was surprised at receiving a letter from Alfred R. Wallace, then in the East Indies, containing the same theory. By the advice of friends, Mr. Wallace's letter and Darwin's paper were read to the Linnaean Society in 1858. In the next year Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published, and at once scored a success. The sensation and discussion extended far beyond scientific circles. The argument was so clear and so well supported by experiments that most readers were convinced that in the struggle for existence and survival of the fittest there was adequate explanation of the facts of the animal world.
The author went steadily on with his experiments and gathered material for an enlargement of his theory. In "The Variation of Plants under Domestication" (1868), new arguments were added, and finally, in "The Descent of Man" (1871), the conclusion which had been anticipated was formally reached. The doctrine of evolution was completely formulated. The non-scientific world had loudly protested against the first work, but able controversialists had defended its conclusions, so that the later met with much less opposition. Darwin himself was always cautious, in his experiments and careful not to draw unwarranted inferences from them. His clear and pleasing style went far in winning attention to his arguments. His sincerity in declaring his views and his generosity in acknowledging the help of others made all scientists his friends. To the end of his life he continued adding to his scientific discoveries. His "Expression of the Emotions in Man and Other Animals" emphasized the connection extending through animated nature. One of his latest treatises was "The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms" (1881). He died April 19, 1882.