February 10, 2013

Darwin's birthday

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England. He was the fifth of six children. His father was a doctor, and his grandfather was a botanist. His mother died when he was eight years old. Darwin had a fascination with natural science from a young age. His father hoped that Charles would become a doctor like him and enrolled him at Edinburgh University when he was sixteen; however, Charles Darwin could not stand the sight of blood. He left Edinburgh and enrolled at Christ's College in Cambridge at age eighteen, but soon realized he would rather study natural history than become a member of the clergy.

After graduating from Christ's College in 1831, Darwin was recommended for a naturalist position on board the HMS Beagle. The ship was to make a five-year survey trip around the world. Darwin had to convince his father to allow him to go. The voyage was a life-changing experience to Darwin. He observed similarities and differences between different species. Species native to the Galapagos Islands were of particular interest to him. After returning home, he spent over twenty years continuing his research and compiling his ideas into a book. He married his cousin Emma Wedgewood and had ten children. Their second child, Anne, died from tuberculosis at age ten, causing Darwin to question his faith.

In 1859, Darwin's most famous work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, was published. This book discussed natural selection, the idea that some species possess traits that increase their likelihood to survive and that species with these traits will become the most common over time. A more extensive definition can be found at visionlearning.com. Over a decade later, Darwin published another book, Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man. His books contributed much to the study of evolutionary theory. To this day his name is closely associated with the theory of evolution and natural selection.

Darwin's birthday is celebrated in many different ways around the world. The biggest celebrations took place in 2009, Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. Some schools teach students about Darwin on his birthday. Many college campuses have birthday parties for Darwin, often involving guest speakers and Darwin impersonators.

A birthday cake for Darwin in 2005: credits to sbc.edu

One Darwin impersonator, Richard Milner, turns Darwin into a singing comedian in his one-man musical, Charles Darwin: Live & In Concert, according to the New York Times.

The theory of natural selection has sparked controversy among religious groups, especially those who believe that evolution should not be taught in schools. Some of these groups celebrate "Question Evolution Day" on Feburary 12th, according to christianpost.com

"Darwin Day" is officially recognized by the American Humanist Association. More information on Darwin Day, including a list of Darwin Day events, can be found at darwinday.org.

Birthday shoutouts to Addy and Sophia

1 comment:

  1. It was interesting to learn of all the groups that celebrate Darwin's birthday! As you may recall, our furnace repairman belongs to a group that does this.

    Darwin would probably be quite surprised that he is remembered on his birthday like this!