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Wikipedia Summary for Charles Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and he was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey.

Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations which gave only a minor role to natural selection, and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.

Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge (Christ's College) encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's conception of gradual geological change, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.

Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations, and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories. Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms (1881), he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.

A language, like a species, when extinct, never reappears.

--Charles Darwin

Man himself cannot express love and humility by external signs so plainly as does a dog when with drooping ears, hanging lips, flexuous body, and wagging tail, he meets his beloved master.

--Charles Darwin

Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity.

--Charles Darwin

The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

--Charles Darwin

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

--Charles Darwin

Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions.

--Charles Darwin

The man who walks with Henslow.

--Charles Darwin

It may be conceit, but I believe the subject will interest the public, and I am sure that the views are original.

--Charles Darwin

If worms have the power of acquiring some notion, however rude, of the shape of an object and over their burrows, as seems the case, they deserve to be called intelligent; for they act in nearly the same manner as would man under similar circumstances.

--Charles Darwin

But when on shore, and 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.

--Charles Darwin

After my return to England it appeared to me that by following the example of Lyell in Geology, and by collecting all facts which bore in any way on the variation of animals and plants under domestication and nature, some light might perhaps be thrown on the whole subject.

--Charles Darwin

We may confidently come to the conclusion, that the forces which slowly and by little starts uplift continents, and that those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic matter from open orifices, are identical.

--Charles Darwin

One doubts existence of free will because every action determined by heredity, constitution, example of others or teaching of others. This view should teach one profound humility, one deserves no credit for anything...nor ought one to blame others.

--Charles Darwin

I am dying by inches, from not having any body to talk to about insects.

--Charles Darwin

Delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist.

--Charles Darwin

Conscience looks backwards and judges past actions, inducing that kind of dissatisfaction, which if weak we call regret, and if severe remorse.

--Charles Darwin

May we not suspect that the vague but very real fears of children, which are quite independent of experience, are the inherited effects of real dangers and abject superstitions during ancient savage times?

--Charles Darwin

I often had to run very quickly to be on time, and from being a fleet runner was generally successful; but when in doubt I prayed earnestly to God to help me, and I well remember that I attributed my success to the prayers and not to my quick running, and marvelled how generally I was aided.

--Charles Darwin

Travelling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover, how many trully goodnatured people there are.

--Charles Darwin

All that at present can be said with certainty, is that, as with the individual, so with the species, the hour of life has run its course, ans is spent.

--Charles Darwin

The moral sense perhaps affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals.

--Charles Darwin

Till facts are grouped and called there can be no prediction. The only advantage of discovering laws is to foretell what will happen and to see bearing of scattered facts.

--Charles Darwin

It is like confessing to a murder.

--Charles Darwin

I shall always feel respect for every one who has written a book, let it be what it may, for I had no idea of the trouble which trying to write common English could cost one--And alas there yet remains the worst part of all correcting the press.

--Charles Darwin

I suppose you are two fathoms deep in mathematics, and if you are, then God help you. For so am I, only with this difference: I stick fast in the mud at the bottom, and there I shall remain.

--Charles Darwin

As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.

--Charles Darwin

I can remember the very spot in the road, whilst in my carriage, when to my joy the solution occurred to me.

--Charles Darwin

I must begin with a good body of facts and not from a principle (in which I always suspect some fallacy) and then as much deduction as you please.

--Charles Darwin

Hence, a traveller should be a botanist, for in all views plants form the chief embellishment.

--Charles Darwin

A bad earthquake at once destroys the oldest associations: the world, the very emblem of all that is solid, has moved beneath our feet like a crust over a fluid; one second of time has conveyed to the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would never have created.

--Charles Darwin

Animals manifestly enjoy excitement, and suffer from annul and may exhibit curiosity.

--Charles Darwin

On your life, underestimating the proclivities of finches is likely to lead to great internal hemorrhaging.

--Charles Darwin

I have at least, as I hope, done good service in aiding to overthrow the dogma of separate creations.

--Charles Darwin

Whoever is led to believe that species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction; for only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed.

--Charles Darwin

The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of branches dead; so that passages cannot be seen-this again offers contradiction to constant succession of germs in progress.

--Charles Darwin

Our ancestor was an animal which breathed water, had a swim-bladder, a great swimming tail, an imperfect skull and undoubtedly was an hermaphrodite! Here is a pleasant genealogy for mankind.

--Charles Darwin

The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me 30 miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have done, and on such a trifle as the shape of my nose.

--Charles Darwin

When the sexes differ in beauty, in the power of singing, or in producing what I have called instrumental music, it is almost invariably the male which excels the female.

--Charles Darwin

I conclude that the musical notes and rhythms were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex.

--Charles Darwin

The western nations of Europe, who now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors, and stand at the summit of civilization, owe little or none of their superiority to direct inheritance from the old Greeks, though they owe much to the written works of that wonderful people.

--Charles Darwin

A cell is a complex structure, with its investing membrane, nucleus, and nucleolus.

--Charles Darwin



When primeval man first used flint stones for any purpose, he would have accidentally splintered them, and would then have used the sharp fragments. From this step it would be a small one to break the flints on purpose and not a very wide step to fashion them rudely.

--Charles Darwin

The impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God.

--Charles Darwin

The man that created the theory of evolution by natural selection was thrown out by his Dad because he wanted him to be a doctor. GAWD, parents haven't changed much.

--Charles Darwin

Many kinds of monkeys have a strong taste for tea, coffee and spirituous liqueurs.

--Charles Darwin

On seeing the marsupials in Australia for the first time and comparing them to placental mammals: An unbeliever ... might exclaim Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work.

--Charles Darwin


I have long discovered that geologists never read each other's works, and that the only object in writing a book is a proof of earnestness.

--Charles Darwin

We have happy days, remember good dinners.

--Charles Darwin

The instruction at Edinburgh was altogether by lectures, and these were intolerably dull, with the exception of those on chemistry.

--Charles Darwin

With mammals the male appears to win the female much more through the law of battle than through the display of his charms.

--Charles Darwin

The children of the Indians are saved, to be sold or given away as servants, or rather slaves, for as long a time as the owners can deceive them; but I believe in this respect there is little to complain of.

--Charles Darwin

Traveling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover, how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance.

--Charles Darwin

Man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children, but no child has an instinctive tendency to bake, brew, or write.

--Charles Darwin

The age-old and noble thought of 'I will lay down my life to save another,' is nothing more than cowardice.

--Charles Darwin

I have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so remarkable in some clever men, for instance Huxley.

--Charles Darwin

When the views entertained in this volume on the origin of species, or when analogous views are generally admitted, we can dimly forsee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history.

--Charles Darwin

Formerly Milton's Paradise Lost had been my chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the Beagle, when I could take only a single small volume, I always chose Milton.

--Charles Darwin

He who believes that each being has been created as we now see it, must occasionally have felt surprise when he has met with an animal having habits and structure not at all in agreement.

--Charles Darwin

I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.

--Charles Darwin

A republic cannot succeed, till it contains a certain body of men imbued with the principles of justice and honour.

--Charles Darwin

As some of the lowest organisms, in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.

--Charles Darwin

Multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.

--Charles Darwin

It is easy to specify the individual objects of admiration in these grand scenes; but it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind.

--Charles Darwin

So great is the economy of nature, that most flowers which are fertilised by crepuscular or nocturnal insects emit their odour chiefly or exclusively in the evening.

--Charles Darwin

We thus learn that man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habits, and an inhabitant of the Old World.

--Charles Darwin

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficient and omnipotent God would have designedly created...that a cat should play with mice.

--Charles Darwin

You ask about my opinion on vivisection. I quite agree that it is justifiable for real investigations on physiology; but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity.

--Charles Darwin

But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.

--Charles Darwin

Longer Version:

But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
To William Graham 3 July 1881.



If man had not been his own classifier, he would never have thought of founding a separate order for his own reception.

--Charles Darwin

Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is, that the latter are known, or believed to be connected at the present day by intermediate gradations whereas species were formerly thus connected.

--Charles Darwin

I believe there exists, and I feel within me, an instinct for the truth, or knowledge or discovery, of something of the same nature as the instinct of virtue, and that our having such an instinct is reason enough for scientific researches without any practical results ever ensuing from them.

--Charles Darwin

In the survival of favoured individuals and races, during the constantly-recurring struggle for existence, we see a powerful and ever-acting form of selection.

--Charles Darwin

Nothing can be more hopeless than to attempt to explain this similarity of pattern in members of the same class, by utility or by the doctrine of final causes.

--Charles Darwin

So in regard to mental qualities, their transmission is manifest in our dogs, horses and other domestic animals. Besides special tastes and habits, general intelligence, courage, bad and good tempers. etc., are certainly transmitted.

--Charles Darwin

It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follows from the advance of science.

--Charles Darwin

Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of facts will certainly reject my theory.

--Charles Darwin



It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant.

--Charles Darwin

This fundamental subject of Natural Selection will be treated at some length in the fourth chapter; and we shall then see how Natural Selection almost inevitably causes much Extinction of the less improved forms of life and induces what I have called Divergence of Character.

--Charles Darwin

Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but at last was complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.

--Charles Darwin

It may be doubted that there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly organized creatures.

--Charles Darwin

Who when examining in the cabinet of the entomologist the gay and exotic butterflies, and singular cicadas, will associate with these lifeless objects, the ceaseless harsh music of the latter, and the lazy flight of the former -- the sure accompaniments of the still, glowing noonday of the tropics.

--Charles Darwin

To my deep mortification my father once said to me, You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.

--Charles Darwin

It appears to me, the doing what little one can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelyhood pursue.

--Charles Darwin

But I am very poorly today and very stupid and I hate everybody and everything. One lives only to make blunders.

--Charles Darwin

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