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Biography of Charles Darwin

Photo of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was a nineteenth century biologist known as the father of evolutionism.

When and Where was Charles Darwin Born?

12th February 1809. The Mount, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England.

Family Background:

Charles Darwin was the son of Robert Waring Darwin, Physician of Shrewsbury, Shropshire and Susannah, Daughter of Josiah Wedgwood. Grandson of Erasmus Darwin the physician, philosopher and poet.


Shrewsbury School. Edinburgh University to study Medicine. (The sight of blood turned him from that profession!) Christ’s Church College, Cambridge to take Holy Orders.

Statue of Charles Darwin
Statue of Darwin outside Shrewsbury Public Library, 
once his old school.  (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Timeline of Charles Darwin:

1827: Darwin contributes two papers to the radical student body the Plinian Society.

1829: He goes on an entomological tour of North Wales with Professor F.W. Hope.

1831: On the 26th April he receives his degree and plans a trip to the Canary Islands. August. He goes on a geological tour of North Wales with Professor Adam Sedgewick. On 29th August he receives an invitation, whilst still at Cambridge University, to be the unpaid naturalist on board H.M.S. Beagle for its projected voyage round the world, captained by Robert Fitzroy. (At this time he has no formal scientific training). Sets sail from Devonport on 27th December. Ship sails for Tenerife, Cape Verde Islands and Brazil.

1832: Darwin has his first major fossil find of extinct animals in September. Has his first view of the Indians of Tierra del Fuego off South America in December.

1835: He arrives in the Galapagos Islands during September and studies the natural history. He is particularly struck by the finches and the tortoises. Sails on to Tahiti, New Zealand and Tasmania.

1836: He arrives back in Falmouth, England on 2nd October.

1837: He lives at 36 Great Marlborough Street, London. Darwin reads his paper on the formation of Coral Reefs to the Geological Society of London on 31st May. Begins his first notebook on the “Transmutation of Species”.

1838: He begins further notebooks on “Man and Materialism”. In September he make his first formulation of his theory of evolution by natural selection.

1839: He marries on 20th January to his first Cousin Emma Wedgwood, at St. Peter’s Church, Maer on their Staffordshire estate and they move to Macaw Cottage, 12 Upper Gower Street, London. He is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and forms a friendship with Charles Lyell, the President of the Geological Society of London. Birth of his first child William Erasmus in December. Begins observations on infant development.

1841: Birth of Charles Darwin’s daughter Anne Elizabeth.

Unitarian Church Shrewsbury
The Unitarian Church, Shrewsbury where Coleridge gave a lecture  and toyed with the idea of joining the church
. Also visited by Charles Darwin and William Hazlitt (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1842: The Darwin family move to Down House, Downe, Kent. Birth of daughter Henrietta Emma in September.

1844: Robert Chamber’s “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” is published anonymously.

1845: Birth of son George Howard.

1846: Darwin begins an eight year study of barnacles.

1847: Birth of daughter Elizabeth.

1848: Birth of son Francis.

1850: Birth of son Leonard.

1851: Death of child Anne Elizabeth in April. Birth of son Horace in May.

1856: Birth of son Charles Waring.

1858: On 18th June he reads a letter from Alfred Russell Wallace discussing a memoir on the Malay archipelago, a very similar theory to his own, made up his mind for him to go public for the first time. Death of his son Charles Waring on 28th June. Papers by Darwin and Wallace are read out at the Linnaean Society in London on 1st July, although neither of them are present. Begins writing the “Origin of Species”.

1859: Charles Darwin completes “The Origin of Species on 19th March and on 24th November 1,250 copies are sold on the first day of its publication.

1860: A second edition is published during January and 3,00 copies are sold. T.E. Huxley and Wilberforce debate evolution at Oxford.

1863: Darwin starts work on climbing and insectivorous plants, which continued until his death.

1864: He is awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society of London.

1867: He turns his attention to the expression of emotions.

1872: The sixth edition of the “Origin of Species” sells 3,000 copies.

When and Where did he Die?

19th April 1882. Down House, Downe, Kent, England of a heart attack.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1840: Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, edited and superintended by Charles Darwin.
1842: “The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs”.
1844: “Observations on the Volcanic Islands, Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle”.
1845: “Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World.”
1846: “Geological Observations on South America.”
1865: “The Origin of Species”.
1865: “The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants”.
1868: “Variation in Animals and Plants under Domestication”.
1871: “The Descent of Man”.
1872: “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”.
1875: “Insectivorous Plants”. “Climbing Plants”.
1876: “The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom”.
1877: “The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species.”
1880: “Power of Movement in Plants”.
1881: “The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits”.
1887: “Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species”.


20th January 1839 to his first Cousin Emma Wedgwood, at St. Peter’s Church, Maer on their Staffordshire estate.

Site of Grave:

Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road.
Lived at 12 Gower Street.


Down House.


He went to School in a building in Shrewsbury which is now the main Public Library.


He holidayed in the Malverns in 1848.