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Darwin, Charles Robert
great English naturalist and biologist, born at Shrewsbury, grandson of Erasmus Darwin on his father's side, and of Josiah Wedgwood on his mother's; studied at Edinburgh and Cambridge; in 1831 accompanied as naturalist without salary the Beagle in her voyage of exploration in the Southern Seas, on the condition that he should have the entire disposal of his collections, all of which he got, and which he ultimately distributed among various public institutions; he was absent from England for five years, and on his return published in 1836 his "Naturalist's Voyage Round the World," in 1839-43 accounts of the fruits of his researches and observations in the departments of geology and natural history during that voyage, in 1842 his treatise on the "Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs," and in 1859 his work on the "Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," a work which has proved epoch-making and gone far to revolutionise thought in the scientific study of, especially, animated nature, and is being applied to higher spheres of being; this work was followed by others more or less confirmatory, finishing off with "The Descent of Man" in 1871, in which he traces the human race to an extinct quadrumanous animal related to that which produced the orang-outang, the chimpanzee, and the gorilla. He may be said to have taken evolution out of the region of pure imagination, and by giving it a basis of fact, to have set it up as a reasonable working hypothesis. Prof. A. R. Wallace claims for Darwin "that he is the Newton of natural history, and has ... by his discovery of the law of natural selection and his demonstration of the great principles of the preservation of useful variations in the struggle for life, not only thrown a flood of light on the process of development of the whole organic world, but also established a firm foundation for the future study of nature." He was buried in Westminster Abbey (1809-1882).
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