Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
World Renowned Naturalist and Distinguished Author
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is recognised as one of the most powerful and fundamentally important ideas in present day science, philosophy and other central aspects of human culture. Consequently, his ideas have outstanding universal value in present day science.
His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, 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 investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838.
Darwin moved from London to the suburbs in the midst of labour riots, buying Downe House (which is situated just 5 miles from Westerham) for £2,200 from the Rev. James Drummond, who had asked for £2,500. They moved in on the 14 September 1842.
On the surrounding land he set about creating the open-air laboratory in which he further developed his theory of evolution, documenting his findings in ‘On the Origin of Species’. This proved unexpectedly popular, with the entire stock of 1,250 copies oversubscribed when it went on sale to booksellers on 22 November 1859.
The ideas Darwin developed from his observations and experiments at Downe have had a profound influence on the life sciences, medicine, agriculture, philosophy, the creative arts and general views of humankind’s relation to other living creatures in the natural world.
He died in Downe on 19 April 1882. He had expected to be buried in St Mary’s churchyard at Downe, but at the request of his colleagues, William Spottiswoode (President of the Royal Society) arranged for Darwin to be given a state funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton. Only five non-royal personages were granted that honour of a UK state funeral during the 19th century.
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