Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Born at Shrewsbury, Darwin came from an affluent family, descendedfrom successful country doctors on one side and the Wedgwood family(of pottery fame) on the other. He was intended to follow the familytradition of medicine, but couldn’t stand the bloody nature of surgery,and seemed likely to become a wastrel. His father sent him toCambridge to study theology with a view to turning him into a countryparson, but Darwin became fascinated by geology and natural history,impressing his tutors so much that they recommended him for avacancy that arose as an unpaid naturalist and companion for theCaptain on the voyage of the Beagle. The round-the-world voyagelasted from 1831 to 1836, and gave Darwin a rare insight into thegeology of different parts of the globe and the variety of life on Earth.Back home, he found he had a reputation as a geologist, based onthe reports and materials he had sent back during the voyage, but wasnot known as a naturalist at all. Although he almost immediately cameup with the idea of natural selection, he set about establishing areputationinbiologybeforethinkingaboutpublishing it.Indeed,heonlypublished at all when Alfred Russel Wallace came up with the sameidea independently.Darwin was a semi-invalid for most of his life, perhaps a result of atropicalinfectionpickeduponthevoyage,andlivedinseclusioninKentsurrounded by a large family and attended by a loving wife.Independentlywealthy(andmademoresobythesuccessofhisbooks)henever hadtoworkforaliving—but,paradoxically,workedfarharderthan most people (when he was well enough) at what strictly has to becalled his hobby.