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Transcript
Surprising truths about
Charles Darwin
Lifeline
Born 1809
 College (Edinburgh and Cambridge)
1825-1831
 Beagle Voyage 1831-36
 Retired to Down 1842
 The Origin of Species
1859
 Died 1882
Darwin’s home at Down, near London

Darwin’s achievements

Transformed biological science
 Both style and content
 Still the cornerstone of biology
 Now the cutting edge of psychology

Transformed attitudes of humanity to
our place in the universe
Not just an evolutionist
Not even a biologist to start with
 Collected beetles for fun
 Studied geology more seriously
 Considered himself a geologist
throughout the Beagle voyage and for
some time after
 Famous for working out how coral
atolls are formed

His books (not just on evolution)







Beagle voyage
Coral reefs
Volcanic islands
Geology of South
America
Barnacles
Species
Man







Emotions
Climbing plants
Domestication
Cross and self
fertilisation
Orchids
Worms
Autobiography
Contribution to style of science
Pre-Darwin, science was done in
homage to God
 Was primarily descriptive
 Deduction and theorising was
disparaged as “speculation”
 Darwin used detailed observation to
explore much larger questions - helped
change scientific methods

Natural selection
Developed theory in complete isolation
 In face of violent opposition
 With no knowledge of genetics
 With no knowledge of DNA
 With no knowledge of plate tectonics
 With no observations of natural
selection actually occurring

Not first to propose evolution

French tradition
 Jean-Baptiste Lamark
 Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire
Erasmus Darwin (Grandfather)
 Robert Grant (Mentor)
 Was expounded in a popular book
(“Vestiges”) 15 years before “Origin”

Darwin was mis-credited
Died famous for evolution (which was
not his idea)
 Natural selection not widely accepted,
even among his supporters
 Darwin remained convinced
 Only 40-50 years later did scientists
appreciate his foresight.

The Beagle
Only 90 foot long, but carrying 74 people.
Joining the Beagle Voyage
Not paid for 5 years on Beagle.
 Actually, he had to pay!
 Was lucky to get on

 replaced someone who was
shot in a duel
 his father opposed him going
Mainly asked because of his class, to
keep Captain Fitzroy company
 It was the making of him

Galapagos, 1835
Portrayed as a “Eureka” experience.
 Did not recognize significance until
back in England, 1837.

 Worked out theory much later.
 First inkling of natural selection in 1838.

Turtles & finches were key evidence
 On boat home, ate turtles, dumped shells
 Thought finches different species; didn’t
even label them properly
The Big Idea:
Natural Selection
Darwin’s sand walk at Down:
He knew about fossils
a daily thoughtful stroll
 Collected many for extinct animals
 Knew about Llyell’s theory of
“evolution” of geology
 Read Malthus (an economist) on
population and competition for
resources.
 His ideas developed steadily over 20
years!!!!

Slow to publish: Why so long?
Anguish
 Illness
 Slow development of ideas
 Collection of a wealth of evidence

Anguish

Social class
 Respectability
 Evolution subversive - against his class

Religous considerations
 especially worried about hurting wife
Emma who grieved for his soul
Scientific prejudice against
“speculation”
 “Like confessing a murder.”

Illness

Problems throughout life
 violent shivering, vomiting, exhaustion,
palpitations, hands trembling, head
swimming, sleeplessness, headaches,
flatulence, stomach problems, ringing of
ears, fainting, copious pallid urine
In 1841 could work “an hour or two a
couple of days a week.”
 Chaga’s disease? Just nervous?
Poisoning himself with medecine?

Slow to publish: Why so long?

Detailed analysis, collection of a
wealth of evidence
 pigeons
 barnacles
Barnacles

Started out as a brief study.
 Took 8 years (from 1848).
 Huge 2 volume treatise overhauling entire
sub-class.

Dominated his kids lives
 One of his kids asked a friend, “Where
does your dad do his barnacles?”

Established him as a biological
specialist, not just a geologist
 Royal Society Medal
Wealth
Father a wealthy doctor
 Reduced his enthusiasm to get a job as
a doctor or clergyman
 Wealth bought time and resources
 Made money from investments (land
and railway stocks), not from books!!!

Religious conflict

Samuel Wilberforce vs T.H.Huxley
Years
“Was
it from
Wilberforce
yourdid
mother’s
fell
off “If the
“For
question
once reality
is whether
and his
I brain
later
Religion
accommodate
Darwin
to
his side
horse,
or landed
your father’s
on his side
head would
came
rather
intohave
contact,
a miserable
and the
some
extent
andthat
wasyou
killed.
were descended ape result
for a grandfather
was fatal.” or a man
 ape?”
Many religious leaders
from an
of meansnot
andliteralist
influence who
uses theseso
gifts
introduce
 Science served religion,
itstofindings
ridicule intoof
a grave
were taken as revelations
God’sscientific
plan
discussion, I unhesitatingly
 Buried in Westminster
Abbey
affirm my
preference for the
 The Times: “Theape!”
Abbey needed Darwin
more than Darwin needed the Abbey.”
The End!
Now you know a LOT about the life of
Charles Darwin!!
Congratulations!!!!