Brief Words Concerning Charles R. Darwin:
Born February 12, 1809 and Died April 19, 1882.

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

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27 March 2001 [1]

How can Darwin possibly have anything relevant to us in the 21st? Century? For various reasons, Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882) was an extremely important individual: the data he collected, the experiments he conducted, the books he wrote (more than twenty), and the theories and ideas he proposed influenced various disciplines. In 2000, the distinguished Stanford University scientist Paul Ehrlich wrote: "The basic explanation of evolution, our own and that of every other organism, traces to one of the most influential books ever written, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in 1859" (Paul R. Ehrlich, 2000, Human Natures: Genes, Cultures and the Human Prospect, page 16) and in 1999 the staid Wall Street Journal had the following:

"Whatever the controversies that surround him, Charles Darwin was certainly the most important natural scientist of the past century; he may become the most important social scientist of the next. His great insight--that humans are animals and that their behavior, like that of all animals, is shaped by evolution--is now making its way into social theory. In economics, linguistics, anthropology and psychology, scholars are attempting to see how our evolved nature, interacting with particular environments, generates the ways we trade and speak, live with others and with ourselves [stress added]." The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 1999, page A24.

In addition to Darwin's various publications, if you wish to read only three items I would suggest:

#1. Charles Darwin, 1887, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, With original omissions restored Edited with Appendix and Notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow, 1958 (NY: W.W. Norton 1969 edition)
#2. Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon, 1982,Darwin for Beginners (New York: Pantheon Books)
#3. Jonathan Weiner, 1994, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time (New York: Vintage Books)

A few years ago, the Smithsonian had a nice article with a summary statement on Darwin:

"He was an Englishman who went on a five-year voyage when he was young and then retired to a house in the country, not far from London. He wrote an account of his voyage, and then he wrote a book setting down his theory of evolution, based on a process he called natural selection, a theory that provided the foundation for modern biology. He was often ill and never left England again." John P. Wiley, Jr., 1998, Expressions: The Visible Link. Smithsonian, June, pages 22-24, page 22.


Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury (England) and was one of six children born to Susannah Wedgwood (1765-1817) and Robert Waring Darwin (1768-1848). Darwin had three older sisters: Marianne (1798-1858), Caroline (1800-1888), Susanne (1803-1866), as well as a younger one, Emily Catherine (1810-1866) and an older brother, Erasmus (1804-1881). Charles Darwin's brother, Erasmus (named after their paternal grandfather, the eminent physician Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), had a tremendous amount of influence on Charles Darwin. When Darwin was 8 years old his mother died at the age of fifty-two (July 1817) and Darwin's father (a prosperous and prominent physician) never re-married. Concerning Darwin's education, the following has been written:

"The fact is that Charles Darwin was in almost all respects a fairly standard example of the nineteenth century student, well off, active in field sports, working hard enough to avoid academic failure, but a long way from academic success." Peter Brent 1981, Charles Darwin: A Man Of Enlarged Curiosity, page 89.

After Darwin graduated from Cambridge University in 1830 he was fortunate enough to be invited on a trip around the world on HMS Beagle and this changed his life:

"The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event of my life and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me 30 miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have done, and on such as trifle as the shape of my nose. I have always felt that I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of my mind. I was led to attend closely to several branches of natural history, and thus my powers of observation were improved, though they were already fairly developed." Charles Darwin, 1887, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, With original omissions restored Edited with Appendix and Notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow, 1958 (NY: W.W. Norton 1969 edition), pages 76-77.

Darwin did quite a bit of research in South America, and after approximately 3 1/2 years on that continent, the HMS Beagle headed into the Pacific Ocean and destiny.

"The Galápagos Islands straddle the Equator, 600 miles west of Ecuador. HMS Beagle arrived there on September 15, 1835. Now almost four years away from England, the Beagle had just come from surveying down the Brazilian coast, through the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of the continent, and up the coast of Peru. Charles Darwin was only 26 years old. Judging from his journal and his later comments, he had not yet begun to think about what he would eventually call 'the species question.' Darwin was impressed by 'the strange Cyclopean scene.' ... He also found some strange birds. For their role in his thinking about evolution, they are now referred to as 'Darwin's finches.' ... On Darwin's last day in the Galápagos, the official supervising the nearby British penal colony declared that he could tell on which island a tortoise originated by its distinctive shell pattern. 'I did not for some time pay sufficient attention to this statement,' Darwin wrote, 'and I had already partially mingled together the collections from two of the islands.' ... Later he wrote that the distribution of Galápagos animals, combined with the similarities between South American fossils and living species in the same region, were 'the factual origin of all my views.' Although the fossils nagged at him from the beginning, other naturalists back home in England had to point out the significance of the finches. In time, Darwin would write of the Galápagos in the 1839 edition of his Journal of Researches: 'The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. Here, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhere near to that great fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings on this earth" [stress added]." Michael Sims, 1997, Darwin's Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts (NY: Henry Holt), page 321-322.

As Darwin himself wrote:

"The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. … Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings on this earth [stress added]." Charles Darwin, 1845, The Voyage of the Beagle [Edited by Leonard Engel, 1962, NY: Doubleday], pages 378-379.

"Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species have been taken and modified for different ends [stress added]." Charles Darwin, 1845, The Voyage of the Beagle [Edited by Leonard Engel, 1962, NY: Doubleday], page 381.

After returning to England in 1836 from his trip around the world, Darwin never left England again. When he set sail in 1831 (at the age of 22), he was a young and relatively inexperienced naturalist; when he returned in 1836, he was an older, different, and experienced individual. On November 11, 1838, Charles Darwin proposed to his cousin, Miss Emma Wedgwood (1808-1896), daughter of Josiah Wedgwood II (and granddaughter of Josiah Wedgwood who established the famous pottery works) and on January 29, 1839, Emma Wedgwood and Charles Darwin were married in London (where they lived until 1842). The first three of their ten children were born in that city and on September 14, 1842, the Darwin family moved to the village of Down in Kent, sixteen miles southeast of London. Emma and Charles Darwin had ten children in all, but only seven reached their age of maturity.



Perhaps the most important event that galvanized Darwin into finally publishing his Origin in 1859 was a letter he received in 1858 from another naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). This letter resulted in a 1858 joint paper in The Linnaean Society Papers. The paper (with Darwin as first author) was entitled "On the tendency of species to form varieties and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection." Wallace's own paper was entitled "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type." Neither Wallace nor Darwin were present at the meeting: Wallace was still in Malaysia and Charles Darwin was in the village of Down, where Emma and Charles Darwin's child (Charles Waring [1856-1858]) had just died from scarlet fever. These joint papers were presented on their behalf by the eminent geologist Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) and the botanist Sir Joseph Hooker (1817-1911) and actually read by the Secretary to the assembled society. On this 1858 presentation Sir Gavin De Beer has written the following:

"On 1 July 1858 Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace made the first public statement of their theory of evolution by natural selection before the Linnaean Society of London, and their papers were published on 20 August of the same year. The eighteen pages which they covered were among the most pregnant ever printed, and deserve to rank with those of Isaac Newton, since they provide for the realm of living beings the first general principle capable of universal application [stress added]." Sir Gavin De Beer, 1958, Charles Darwin And Alfred Russel Wallace: Evolution By Natural Selection, page 1.

After this, came the 1859 publication of On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Please note the changes Darwin made in the SIX editions of the same volume during his lifetime (as calculated by Morse Peckham [Editor], 1959, The Origin Of Species By Charles Darwin: A Variorum Text):




9 eliminated
483 rewritten
30 added
7 %
33 eliminated
617 rewritten
266 added
14 %
36 eliminated
1073 rewritten
435 added
21 %
178 eliminated
1770 rewritten
227 added
29 %
63 eliminated
1699 rewritten
571 added
21-29 %

In the 5th edition of 1869, Darwin used (for the first time) the famous phrase (borrowed from Herbert Spencer [1820-1903]): "Survival of the Fittest." In the 6th edition of 1872, "On" was dropped from the title. In the 1st edition of 1859, Darwin only had the following phrase about human beings: "In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history." In the 2nd edition of 1860 Darwin included the word "Creator" into the following phrase:

"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."

Incidentally, this is not the first mention that Darwin made of what could be called a "Supreme Being" for in his publication The Voyage Of The Beagle, he wrote the following:

"Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in subliminity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of Life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where Death and Decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature:--no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body [STRESS added]."



"The [1937] Hungarian Nobel Prize winner [in Physiology/Medicine], Szent-Györgyi [von Nagyrapolt], once said that a scientist should see what everybody else has seen and then think what nobody has thought. Nobody did this better than Charles Darwin, who first realized that the evolution of life took place by Natural Selection. 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.

FROM: USA Today, January 4, 1999: "The idea was simple. Sit around and pick the 1,000 most important people of the millenium. ... [#1] Johannes Gutenberg (1394?-1468) Inventor of printing.... [#5] William Shakespeare (1564-1616) 'Mirror of the millennium's soul'.... [#6] Isaac Newton (1642-1727) Laws of motion helped propel the Age of Reason.... [#7] Charles Darwin (1809-1882) Theory of Evolution [stress added]." From the book by Barbara and Brent Bowers & Agnes Hooper Gottlieb and Henry Gottlieb, 1998, 1,000 People: Ranking The Men And Women Who Shaped The Millennium.



Charles Darwin was conducting research and writing until the 73rd year of his life and it was during the winter of 1881-1882 that his heart gave him problems: while visiting a friend in London in December 1881, he suffered a mild heart seizure and on the 12th of February 1882, his 73rd birthday, he wrote to a friend that "my course is nearly run" (Julian Huxley and H.B.D. Kettlewell, 1965, Charles Darwin And His World, page 126). On Wednesday the 19th of April 1882, Darwin had a fatal heart attack and died. The remains of Charles R. Darwin are not buried in Down but in the chapel of St. Faith in Westminster Abbey, London. At his death, twenty Members of Parliament immediately requested of the Dean of Westminster that Darwin be buried in the Abbey. A four-horse funeral carriage (accompanied by three of his sons) made the 16 mile journey to London on the 25th of April 1882. Considering how Darwin had been verbally attacked by certain clergy during his lifetime it may seem unusual that he is buried in the holiest-of-holy places in the British Empire but the British know how to honor their scientists. Emma Darwin (born in 1808) died at the age of eighty-eight in 1896 and she did not attend the formal service in London at Westminster Abbey, preferring to mourn in private. Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) wrote Darwin's obituary for the April 27, 1882 issue of Nature and in addition to pointing out many things about Darwin, Huxley ended by writing that the words applied to Socrates "Apology" are appropriate for Charles Darwin and as Huxley wrote the words ring:

" our ears as if it were Charles Darwin's farewell:--'The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways--I to die and you to live. Which is the better, God only knows.'" Thomas H. Huxley, 1896, Charles Darwin, Darwiniana Essays, pages 244-247, page 247.
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Some "visuals" from the March 21-24, 2001 trip: 

The Getty Center from hotel.
The Bel Air-Brentwood Holiday Inn.
Freeway Traffic from hotel.

George C. Page Museum and La Brea Tarpits.
George C. Page Museum exhibit.
George C. Page Museum work area.

Norton Simon Museum and Burghers of Calais by A. Rodin.
Norton Simon Museum Sculpture Garden.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, & Botanical Gardens.

Darwin Banner for Exhibit at the Huntington.
Darwin Exhibit at the Huntington.
Darwin Exhibit at the Huntington.

From the Darwin Exhibit at the Huntington.

February 25, 2001 - June 24, 2001

"An exhibition about the life and work of Charles Darwin, drawn from the Warren D. Mohr Collection, will be on view in Spring 2001. The collection, donated to The Huntington in 1993 by Warren Mohr, is a vast library of volumes by and about Charles Darwin, including more than 1,000 different editions of Darwin's works and over 500 supporting volumes by his contemporaries and followers. This will be the first time that selections from this remarkable collection are exhibited for the public. Highlights of the collection include the magnificent Zoology of the Voyage of the HMS Beagle (1838-1843), and more than 200 printings of Darwin's seminal work, On the Origin of Species, including most of the important non--English translations. Approximately 50 works will be exhibited. West Hall." [from:]

Source: Natural History Museum, London [1999]
Darwin, California USA 93522


The last two visuals were not from the March 2001 trip but were taken elsewhere or elsewhen: to the left you have a visual from the Natural History Museum (London) from July 1999 and to the right you have a visual from "Darwin, California USA 93522." For additional Darwin visuals, please go to: [November 2000} Visuals]

Urbanowicz Web sites (from most recent to oldest): [March 4, 2001} CSU, Chico Presentation on Machu Picchu and The Galápagos Islands] [February 25, 2001} article in The Chico Enterprise-Record (pages E1 and E2)] [November 2000} On Teaching & Darwin] [November 2000} July 2000 Galápagos Islands Trip ] [November 2000} Visuals] [October 2000} Words] [1999} 22 minute video available on your desktop with REALPLAYER; this is tape #2 of a four-part series: it takes "Darwin" from England to South America.]. [1997} 18 minute video available on your desktop with REALPLAYER; this is tape #1 of a four-part series: it "sets the setting" of Darwin in England].

Other Darwin-related Web sites: [Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc.] [Oil Spill in The Galapagos Islands] [Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc.] [The Friends of Charles Darwin Home Page] [Darwin Day Home Page] [The Ilkley Pages: Darwin Gardens]
wysiwyg://5/ [The Galápagos Islands!] [ - online guide to Ecuador and the Galapagos] [Virtual Galápagos] [iExplore | Multimedia Presentations} The Galápagos Islands] [The National Center for Science Education] [Official Darwin Awards} "...showing us just how uncommon common sense can be." Wendy Northcutt, 2000, The Darwin Awards: Evolution in Action (Dutton)

[1] © This web page was created for participants on the Chico Museum Getty Tour (March 21-24, 2001) led by Dr. Valene Smith McIntyre, Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology, CSU, Chico; to return to the beginning of this page, please click here.

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© [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] Charles F. Urbanowicz

Slight cosmetic changes on 4 April 2001 by CFU

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