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11. Darwin

SAMIR OKASHA


Subject Philosophy

People Darwin, Charles

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00014.x


Extract

Discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, and thus the founder of modern evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin is responsible for one of the most fundamental and far-reaching contributions to the modern scientific world view. Born in 1809 in Shrewsbury into a wealthy Victorian family, Darwin was educated at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. Though his formal education was of little interest to him - “my time was wasted, as far as the academical studies were concerned” (1969, p. 58) - Cambridge did provide the opportunity to pursue his childhood interest in natural history. Upon graduating in 1831, Darwin joined a charting expedition around South America on board HMS Beagle , which was to last for five years. During this time, he made lengthy expeditions inland, studying the flora, fauna, and geology of South America and the Pacific Islands, and accumulating a massive biological and geological collection. These years were critical for Darwin's intellectual development, as he admitted, sowing the seeds of his doubt in the fixity of individual species. Darwin was impressed by a large number of facts that could not be explained on the assumption of the fixity of species, including the close structural similarities between extinct and living species revealed by the fossil record. Most important of all were the tortoises and finches of the Galapagos Islands: ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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