Charles Robert Darwin

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Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809–19 April 1882) was an English naturalist and geologist, best well-known for his contributions to the science of evolution. Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, at his family’s home: The Mount. He was the fifth of six children of wealthy society doctor and financier Robert Darwin, and of Susannah Darwin (née Wedgwood). He was the grandson of two prominent abolitionists: Erasmus Darwin on his father’s side, and Josiah Wedgwood on his mother’s side. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and in a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective propagation.

His evolution-related experiments and investigations led to books on Orchids, Insectivorous Plants, The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom, different forms of flowers on plants of the same species, and The Power of Movement in Plants. His botanical work was interpreted and popularized by various writers including Grant Allen and H. G. Wells, and helped transform plant science in the late C19 and early C20. In his last book he returned to The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms. In 1882 he was diagnosed with what was called “angina pectoris” which then meant coronary thrombosis and disease of the heart. At the time of his death, the physicians diagnosed “anginal attacks”, and “heart-failure”. He died at Down House on 19 April 1882. His last words were to his family, telling Emma “I am not the least afraid of death – Remember what a good wife you have been to me – Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me”, then while she rested, he repeatedly told Henrietta and Francis “It’s almost worth while to be sick to be nursed by you”.

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