CHARLES R. DARWIN (1809-1882) by Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz

Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: / home page:

11 February 1993 [1]

© [All Rights Reserved.] Presented at the "Anthropology Forum" on 11 February 1993, California State University, Chico.

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LIFE AND DEATH: 1809-1882 Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, 160 miles northwest of London on the 12th of February 1809, one-hundred & eighty-four years ago tomorrow! Incidentally, February 12, 1809 was the same day the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), was born in the state of Kentucky. On the 12th of February 1882, Darwin wrote to a friend that "my course is nearly run" (J. Huxley and H.B.D. Kettlewell, 1965, Charles Darwin and His World, page 126) and on the 19th of April 1882, he had a fatal heart attack and died. Charles R. Darwin was buried on the 25th of April in London in Westminster Abbey, close to the remains of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) (Francis Bond, 1909, Westminster Abbey (Oxford University Press), page 311).

THE VOYAGE: 1831 TO 1836 At the age of sixty-eight, in 1877, Darwin wrote in his Autobiography that the five-year voyage over the years of 1831-1836 on His Majesty's Ship Beagle, was "by far the most important event of my life and has determined my whole career" (Stanley Edgar Hyman, 1963, Darwin for Today, page 1).

THE IN-BETWEEN YEARS: 1836 TO 1858 Darwin returned to England on the 2nd of October 1836 and went to Shrewsbury on the 4th of October. In 1838 he proposed to his cousin, Miss Emma Wedgewood and in 1839 they were wed. Although they first lived in London, in 1842 they moved to Down (16 miles southeast of The City). In July of 1837, Darwin opened his first notebook and started gathering facts on variations in plants and animals, including those under domestication and those in nature. By 1844 Darwin enlarged his notes and this resulted in the 1859 publication of On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.





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Source: Morse Peckham (Editor), 1959, The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: A Variorum Text (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press). Although this book is only available on inter-library loan, if one consults the computerized catalogue in the Meriam Library, there are more than sixty items dealing with Darwin available to the interested reader and researcher.

In 1869 Darwin used the phrase "Survival of the Fittest" (from Herbert Spencer [1820-1903]) and by 1872 the word "On" was dropped from the title. In the 6th edition of 1872 Charles R. Darwin wrote the following about man:

"In the future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."

 Although Charles R. Darwin called himself an "agnostic" in that 6th and final edition of 1872 he also had the following:

"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator [STRESS added] into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

Please note that although the phrase "by the Creator" did not appear in the first edition of 1859, Darwin used it in the 2nd edition of 1860 and "the Creator" remained there for all subsequent editions that Darwin was involved with in his lifetime.

COMMENTS AND CONCLUDING REMARKS Facts do not speak for themselves and one should ask, what "version" of Darwin am I familiar with? As Toynbee has written:

"Facts are not really like boulders that have been detached and shaped and deposited exclusively by the play of forces of non-human nature. They are like flaked and chipped flints, hewn stones, bricks or briquettes. Human action has had a hand in making them what they are, and they would not be what they are if this action had not taken place. ... Facts are, in truth, exactly what is meant by the Latin word facta from which the English word is derived. They are 'things that have been made'" (Arnold J. Toynbee, 1964, A Study of History: Reconsiderations, Volume 12, p. 250)

EPILOGUE: C. F. URBANOWICZ Years ago I came across a book by the University of California at Berkeley Professor of Zoology Richard M. Eakin entitled Great Scientists Speak Again (1975) and Darwin, as well as Mendel (1822-1884), and several others were portrayed by Eakin for his UCB Zoology 10 class. You may consult Eakin to compare his Darwin with my Darwin. The presentation today is similar to one delivered in this room for an "Anthropology Forum" on the 4th of October 1990. One final quote, not used earlier today, but thoroughly appropriate:

"Darwin taught us all to see more clearly what everyone had seen, and Darwin also taught us to think, along with him, what no one else had thought. No branch of science is more dominated by a single theory, by a single great idea, than is the whole of biology by the idea of evolution by Natural Selection." (J. Livingston and L. Sinclair, 1967, Darwin and the Galapagos, n.p.]

Please see Charles F. Urbanowicz, 1990, Charles R. Darwin: My Life And Death, Discussion Paper Series (College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, CSU, Chico, No. 90-1) for an expansion on this brief presentation and numerous additional references.

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Anthropology Department, CSU, Chico
8 April 1999 by CFU