Darwin, Charles Robert

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Darwin, Charles Robert

Darwin, Charles Robert, 1809–82, English naturalist, b. Shrewsbury; grandson of Erasmus Darwin and of Josiah Wedgwood. He firmly established the theory of organic evolution known as Darwinism. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and for the ministry at Cambridge but lost interest in both professions during the training. His interest in natural history led to his friendship with the botanist J. S. Henslow; through him came the opportunity to make a five-year cruise (1831–36) as official naturalist aboard the Beagle. This started Darwin on a career of accumulating and assimilating data that resulted in the formulation of his concept of evolution and his explication of natural and sexual selection. He spent the remainder of his life carefully and methodically working over the information from his copious notes and from every other available source.

Independently, the naturalist A. R. Wallace had worked out a concept of evolution similar to Darwin's. Wallace sent a paper outlining his theory to Darwin in 1858, and its striking coincidences with Darwin's work led Darwin's friends to move to assure that the more cautious Darwin, who had been slow to publish, would receive credit for the independence and priority of his ideas. The next year Darwin set forth the structure of his theory and massive support for it in the superbly organized On the Origin of Species, supplemented and elaborated in his many later books, notably The Descent of Man (1871). He also formulated a theory of the origin of coral reefs.


See J. T. Costa, ed, The Annotated Origin: A Facsimile of the First Edition of On the Origin of Species (2009); Darwin's correspondence, ed. by F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (25 vol., 1985–) and letters of Darwin and Henslow, ed. by N. Barlow (1967); G. Chancellor and J. Van Wyhe, ed. Charles Darwin's Notebooks from the Voyage of the Beagle (2009); his autobiography (ed. by N. Barlow, 1958) and Life and Letters (ed. by F. Darwin, 1887; repr. with intro. by G. G. Simpson, 1962); biographies by G. Wichler (tr. 1961), A. Desmond and J. Moore (1991), J. Browne (2 vol., 1995–2002), and P. Johnson (2012); J. Barzun, Darwin, Marx, Wagner (rev. ed. 1958); A. Moorehead, Darwin and the Beagle (1969, rev. ed. 1979); P. Appleman, ed., Darwin (1970, repr. 1983); D. L. Hull, Darwin and His Critics (1983); R. J. Richards, Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior (1989); R. Dawkins, River Out of Eden (1995); D. C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995); N. Eldredge, Reinventing Darwin (1995); S. Jones, Darwin's Ghost: “The Origin of Species” Updated (2000); J. Browne, Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography (2008); A. Desmond and J. Moore, Darwin's Sacred Cause (2009, repr. 2011); R. Milner, Darwin's Universe (2009); G. Levine, Darwin the Writer (2011); R. Stott, Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution (2012); J. Costa, Darwin's Backyard (2017); R. Wesson, Darwin's First Theory (2017).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Darwin, Charles Robert


Born Feb. 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury; died Apr. 19, 1882, in Down (near London). English naturalist; founder of the evolutionary doctrine of the origin of species of animals and plants by means of natural selection. Grandson of E. Darwin.

Upon graduating from Cambridge University in 1831, Darwin made a round-the-world voyage as a naturalist on the ship Beagle (1831–36), during which he made an enormous number of observations in zoology, botany, geology, paleontology, anthropology, and ethnology. After the voyage, Darwin published his Journal of Researches (1839; second, expanded edition, 1845). in which he was the first to describe many South American and island animals—in particular, rodents, predatory birds, Galapagos lizards, tortoises, and finches. In his notes Darwin also devoted some attention to questions of social and political life, describing the difficult conditions in which the South American Indians lived. He published three major works on geology: The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842), Geological Observations on Volcanic Islands (1844), and Geological Observations on South America (1846). The theory that he developed concerning the origin of coral reefs was of particular importance, as was the publication of Zoology (vols. 1–5. 1839–43) under his editorship. His Monograph on the Cirripedia (vols. 1–2) was published in 1851–54. His principal work. On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, appeared in 1859 (the first draft of the theory of evolution had been made by Darwin in 1842: the first notice in print appeared in 1858). In this work. Darwin demonstrated that species of plants and animals are not constant but subject to change and that the species that exist now evolved by natural means from other species that existed previously; the expediency observable in nature was created, and is being created, by the natural selection of random changes that are useful for the organism. In 1868, Darwin published his second major work The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (in two volumes), which was a supplement to his main work and included, together with information on the breeding, through artificial selection, of animals and plants that are useful to man, a mass of factual evidence of the evolution of natural forms drawn from many centuries of human experience. In 1871. Darwin published his third great work on the theory of evolution—The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex—wherein he examined the massive evidence of man’s animal origins. This was supplemented by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872. Darwin also wrote a number of important works on botany, the formation of humus, and other subjects.


In Russian translation:
Illiustrirovannoe sobranie sochinenii
, vols. 1–8. Edited by K. A. Timiriazev. Moscow. 1907–09.
Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 1–4. Edited by M. A. Menzbir. Moscow-Leningrad. 1925–29.
Sochineniia, vols. 1–9. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935–59.
Avtobiografiia. St. Petersburg, 1896.
Vospominaniia o razvitii moego uma i kharaktera (Avtobiografiia): Dnevnik raboty i zhizni. (Complete translation from the manuscripts of C. Darwin; introduction and commentary by S. L. Sobol’.) Moscow, 1957.


Nekrasov, A. D. Charlz Darvin. Moscow, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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