Naturalist and author famous for promotion of the theory of natural selection. Darwin was born at The Mount in Shrewsbury, the fifth child of Dr. Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah (eldest daughter of Josiah Wedgwood). He was the grandson of the botanist and poet, Erasmus Darwin. His parents were Unitarians and worshipped at the High Street Unitarian Church where there is a commemorative tablet to Charles, even though he was baptised at St. Chad's Church.
He was educated at home initially and then at a day school kept by the Rev. Case at 13 Claremont Hill. In 1818 Charles was sent as a boarder to Shrewsbury School then in the original building at Castle Gates, where conditions for the boys were decidedly austere. The building now houses Shrewsbury Library and has been restored to its Elizabethan splendour. At the front entrance is an imposing statue of Darwin erected in 1897. An interesting account of his schooldays appeared in The life and letters of Charles Darwin (1887) edited by his son, Francis.
At the age of sixteen Charles was sent to Edinburgh to study medicine, but this was not to his liking so after two years he went to Cambridge, his father now intending him to become a parson. The invitation to sail on the Beagle as a naturalist in 1831, of course, thwarted the ecclesiastical career, but set up Charles Darwin to become, in the following years, one of the most influential figures of the century. Darwin is not, strictly speaking, a literary figure but the impact of his discoveries and theories was so great in scientific, religious, philosophic and literary fields that he has to be included here. His two most famous works were On the origin of species by means of natural selection (1859) and The descent of man (1871).
Adapted from An Illustrated Literary Guide to Shropshire by Gordon Dickins, published by Shropshire Libraries, 1987. © Gordon Dickins, 1987.
Journal of researches into the geology and natural history
of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle
On the origin of species by means of natural selection (1859)
The descent of man and selection in relation to sex (1871)
The expression of the emotions in man and animals (1872)
Several books by Charles Darwin are available as plain text files from Project Gutenberg and as Microsoft® Reader books from Blackmask Online.
Charles Darwin wrote a personal account of his life, which was published in The life and letters of Charles Darwin (1887), edited by his son, Francis. An extract from his schooldays in Shrewsbury can be read online here.
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