Charles Robert Darwin will forever be remembered as science’s greatest contributor. Without his theory of evolution via natural selection, not only would we understand pitifully little about the world around us, we would have no clue about our own origins, the evolution of life on earth, and the mechanisms which drive species to diversify and flourish in every condition possible.
|The young Darwin. Despite his famous image as an older gentleman, he published most of his work in his younger years.|
To me, he is more than just a great scientist. Darwin was a man who travelled the world, collecting scores of beetles, birds, and bones, finding something new and exciting with each little discovery. When something new arose, he did everything but overlook it. He was a true man of science, asking questions around every corner, never tiring until he reached a conclusion.
When he discovered the fossils of ground sloths in Patagonia, he didn’t dismiss them as remnants of a Great Deluge; he sought to discover not only what species the bones belonged to, but how such a creature could disappear from the face of the earth. When faced with the mockingbirds, finches, and tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, he was driven by genuine curiosity to discover just how these species became so different from their sister species, despite being separated by mere stretches of water.
|The way Darwin is most often remembered, as a snowy-bearded sage.|
Even more amazing than his naturally scientific and curious mind was the fact that Darwin published his theory at all. He lived in an age when the church was an overbearing part of everyday life, and he was well aware that his theory would cause a commotion among Victorian society. Even closer to home, however, was the fact that his wife, Emma, was devoutly religious; Darwin’s dedication to the writing and publication of his theory caused a great strain on their relationship. And yet, despite all odds and opposition, not only did he publish his theory, but it was proven to be exactly right.
Today, more than ever, Darwin’s theories hold true. Even 204 years after his birth, he remains, unequivocally, the greatest mind to ever grace the scientific world. I end with a quote from Darwin himself which summarizes the beauty and wonder of the natural world through his own eyes.
“…From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”