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Happy Birthday Darwin!

By Jessica Naomi Watson

We might not be able to name a mountain after him (which he received for his 25th birthday) but we can take a look at his life…

Born in 1809 and best known for his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin attended Edinburgh University in hopes of becoming a doctor – though he soon realised he couldn’t stand the sight of blood! His father sent him to study at Cambridge University, as a step towards a career in the church, but Darwin’s interest in ecology led him to a career as a naturalist.

Darwin was selected to accompany the captain during the voyage on the HMS Beagle, but at first, his father wouldn’t allow him to go. Luckily, Darwin’s uncle helped to persuade his father to allow Darwin to make the now famous voyage. This wasn’t the only thing that nearly stopped Darwin from joining; Captain FitzRoy didn’t like the shape of his nose!

In University, Darwin was a part of a ‘Gourmet Club’, where all members would meet once a week and eat unusual food not generally found on a typical menu. He continued to try new cuisines throughout the voyage. He even dined on a particular species of Rhea when in South America, saving some for the Zoological Society in London, now known as Rhea darwinii!

Charles Darwin’s research has shaped evolution as it is known today. After discovering Alfred Russel Wallace had the same ideas, Darwin quickly went public with his theory to ensure Wallace wasn’t able to take the credit. He went on to publish his work, including the seminal On the Origin of Species and even progressed on through his troubled ill health.

In 1882, aged 72, his life drew to an end with his last words, spoken to his wife, being “I am not the least afraid to die”.