In this week's episode, we take a look at the childhood and early life of Charles Darwin, the man who proposed the theory of evolution (theory of natural selection).
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Charles Darwin's great grandfather was Robert Darwin. He brought the discovery of a Jurassic era reptile to the attention of the UK's Royal Society. His son was Erasmus Darwin. Erasmus Darwin had a friend called Josiah Wedgewood. When Josiah' business partner died, Erasmus became his business partner. This brought them closer. As a result, their children - Erasmus Darwin's son Robert Darwin and Josiah Wedgewood's daughter Susannah - got married. The fifth child of this couple was Erasmus Charles Darwin. He was born on February 12th, 1809.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Enlightenment [what is Enlightenment? - Citation 1] became popular in Europe. It was a movement that put religion on the backseat by emphasizing on the importance of logic and reasoning in gaining understanding and knowledge. But by the time Charles Darwin was born, the Churches in England had already rejected Enlightenment, and started controlling the syllabus in schools, to prevent people from learning science.
But Darwin's grandfathers had always emphasized that an individual should find the truth by himself. So, Darwin grew up unconstrained by the religious norms of his times.
Love for nature
Charles Darwin had always been interested in nature - He learned the names of plants; he collected insects; he observed the behavior of organisms around him. He inherited this interest in nature from his father. His father was a naturalist, who had studied natural history [What is natural history? - Citation 2]. As he reached his teenage, he started reading about natural history.
Interest in natural history
Even after his father got him admission in the Edinburgh University to study medicine, Darwin's interest in nature did not fade away. So, he continued to collect insects, observe sea birds, and animals even after he joined the university. He attended zoology and natural history courses and spent a considerable amount of time in the university's natural history museum. He joined a natural history students' group, where he made friends with the same interests as him, and listened to other students' theories about transmutation (which is how evolution was known at that time).
But he did not like the subjects that were related to the medical profession. He complained that anatomy was boring. During Darwin's time, anesthetic wasn't invented. So, surgeries were too disturbing for him to watch. So, even though his friend from the natural history students' group abandoned his love for natural history and started medical practice, Darwin quit college.
Until now, Charles Darwin hasn't accomplished anything significant in his life. Nor has he laid a solid foundation for a promising career. So, how did he go from here, to formulating the Theory of Natural Selection? We will find out in the next episodes of Charles Darwin's biography.