You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching and you will be a disgrace to yourself and your family.

ERASMUS DARWIN (1731-1802) 

Charles Darwin

CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)

We must acknowledge that man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

Darwin and the Church

Although resisted by Biblical literalists, Darwin's On the Origin of the Species was widely respected by many mainstream churchmen at the time of its publication.
Many years before Darwin, the Victorian geologist Charles Lyell had debunked the idea of seven days of creation; and 19th-century scholarship generally encouraged Christians to see the early Bible stories as metaphors rather than literal accounts. As such, they had no real problem with Darwin's theories.
Evolution was not a new and unheard-of theory; other theorists had already come up with the idea. The concept of species adaptation had been championed by Darwin's grandfather, the famed Birmingham physician Erasmus Darwin.  To most, evolution was a divinely ordained linear evolution, a march to ever-greater perfection, with mankind as the pinnacle. What was genuinely new and unsettling about Darwin's idea was that it seemed to do away with the need to invoke divine authority or any sense of purpose or design to life.
Darwin had delayed publicising his ideas due to worries of a backlash from Britain's religious or scientific establishment. As he anticipated, it unleashed controversy, yet the scale of the uproar has often been exaggerated. In 1860, just one year after publication, Frederick Temple, head of Rugby School and later Archbishop 

Darwin only used the word 'evolution' once, in the closing paragraph of The Origin of Species.

Darwin's Mockingbirds

Many people think Darwin got his insight about evolution from finches. But it was mockingbirds from the Galapagos Islands, not finches, which gave him his ideas about evolution. On the Beagle voyage, Darwin noticed differences in mockingbirds he saw on different islands in the Galapagos. He wrote down these differences, noting which mockingbird was from which island, something he didn’t do with the finches. This led Darwin to question 'the stability of species’, as he phrased it then, and this insight eventually led him to the idea of evolution by natural selection.
Darwin did indeed bring a number of finch specimens home, but they were badly mixed up and he had failed to make a note of which island each specimen came from – an 'inexplicable confusion'. He did, however, use the birds in a presentation to the Geological Society of London, and the story made the newspapers.
One of the things often overlooked about Darwin’s theory is that amongst the evidence for it are many real-time observations showing natural selection happening here and now. The average beak size of Darwin’s finches can change drastically in one generation depending on climatic conditions. Then, if the conditions change, the beak size can change right back.


A man who dares waste one hour of time has not yet discovered the value of life.

Darwin preferred the term 'descent with modification' to 'evolution'.

Darwin hated religious controversy because it exacerbated his bowel problems.

There are more than 120 species named after Darwin.

Death Convert? 

The idea that Darwin recanted his theories on his deathbed in favour of a conversion to Christianity dates back to an evangelist named Lady Hope, who claimed to have been a friend of Darwin's. In 1915, she claimed she had visited him during his last days, when she found him reading the Scriptures, for which he 'expressed the greatest reverence'. The tale, in its entirety, was categorically denied on many occasions by Darwin's intimates. Beyond Hope's own account, there is no evidence for it at all. Darwin famously wrote that 'disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete' and that he had 'never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct'.


Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose.

The Glutton Club

Darwin was driven by gastronomic, as well as scientific, curiosity. While half-heartedly reading Divinity at Cambridge University he became a member of the 'Glutton' or 'Gourmet Club' which met once a week and actively sought to eat animals not normally found on menus. They enjoyed, amongst other things, hawk and bittern, but 'their zeal broke down over an old brown owl', which Darwin wrote tasted 'indescribable'.
In the Galapagos, Darwin lived on iguana. On James Island he wolfed down a few helpings of giant tortoise. Not realizing the importance of giant tortoises to his later evolutionary theory, 48 specimens were loaded aboard the Beagle – which Darwin and his shipmates proceeded to eat, throwing the shells overboard as they finished.
After exhaustively searching Patagonia for the Lesser Rhea, Darwin realised he had already eaten one for his Christmas dinner while moored off Port Desire in 1833. While in Patagonia he also ate puma, and thought it tasted like veal. (In fact, he originally thought it was veal). Other revelations Darwin reached included the fact that armadillo tasted rather like duck.
On Darwin's birthday, the 12th of February, some biologists enjoy a Phylum Feast, a meal which includes as many different species as possible.

As a young man, Darwin's greatest passion was shooting wildlife. 

Darwin spent eight years studying barnacles and wrote a four-volume monograph on the subject.

Chagas Disease

Charles Darwin suffered throughout his adult life from symptoms that he described thus: ‘Vomiting preceded by shivering, hysterical crying, dying sensations or half-faint, and copious and very pallid urine. Now vomiting and every passage of flatulence preceded by ringing of ears, treading on air and vision. Focus and black dots, air fatigues, specially reading, brings on the head symptoms.’ He tried any and all remedies, but the only one that seemed to work for a while was a spa - Dr James Gully's Water Cure Establishment at Malvern. However, after analysing the success of the treatment he concluded that it was a placebo effect, whereupon it stopped working and he gave it up.
Various posthumous diagnoses of Darwin’s illness have been attempted, including agoraphobia, anxiety about the tension between his theory and his religion, and Meniere's Disease. Chagas Disease, a parasitic South American tropical disease transmitted by blood-sucking insects, seems to be the strongest candidate. Darwin is known to have been bitten by an Argentinian bug that carries the infection during the Beagle’s voyage.

Darwin almost didn't get the job aboard the Beagle because the captain believed the shape of his nose indicated laziness.

Darwin was the first person to remark that blue-eyed white cats are usually deaf.


The missing link between animals and the real human being is most likely ourselves.

Zoönomia - one of the first formal theories on evolution – was written by Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus.