Charles Darwin is one of the most influential people known in human history. He shaped the way we view and study the life sciences, and he is most known for his contribution to the theory of evolution through his book On the Origin of Species.
But did you know that he was also an influential author, geologist, and naturalist in his time? And each of his study fields complemented one another.
He also lived an eventful life.
It appears that the man behind the ground-breaking Theory of Evolution is as interesting, if not more, as his ideas. Here are a few fun facts about the father of evolutionary biology.
1. He shares his birthday with Abraham Lincoln
Both Darwin and Lincoln were born on the same day, February 12, 1809, but the two men had a lot more in common. Both of them loved Shakespeare's work, were abolitionists, and suffered the loss of a young child.
These facts still fascinate many people. It even inspired a book, Lincoln and Darwin by James Lander that muses over their similar life events and world-views.
2. He was a college drop-out before dropping out was cool!
Darwin went on to study medicine at the prestigious University of Edinburgh as per his father’s wishes but soon realized that medicine was not for him. Even though he did graduate from Christ’s College in Cambridge with a degree in arts, he was a lifelong autodidact, meaning that he preferred self-education over the conventional methods of studying.
3. He loved hiking
During his twenties, Darwin was an avid amateur hiker. He was a naturalist, and he was particularly passionate about collecting beetles.
He liked studying and examining bio-diversity, a habit that perhaps originated from his hobby of collecting beetles.
4. He was even in a romantic relationship
Darwin matured a lot over time. He grew from being a quirky young man to having a serious relationship during his college years. Still, the couple eventually did part ways because Darwin allegedly didn’t pay enough attention to his girlfriend, as speculators claim.
She ultimately got married, as recorded in a letter she had sent Darwin.
5. He made a pro/con list about getting married
When considering whether or not he should get married, Darwin composed a list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’. In the list, he notes that marriage will lead to “children,” which he describes as “constant companion" and “someone to take care of the house.”
He even noted that it was "better than a dog anyhow." On the other hand, he considered other things he valued in life, such as the "freedom to go where one liked," and "conversation of clever men at clubs."
6. He married his first cousin
Regardless of his inner struggles with marriage, Darwin did ultimately get married. His wife, Emma, was his first cousin, with whom he had ten children. He commented on the dangers of having kids in "consanguineous" marriages.
Three of his children died from illness, while others had health problems.
7. He used to play backgammon with his wife
After returning from his voyage to South Africa, Darwin fell ill and he was required to spend a lot of time resting in bed, and he spent that time with his wife playing two games of backgammon every night.
It was, in fact, a part of his daily routine, as he followed a strict schedule of 2 games of backgammon with Emma from 8:00 to 8:30 PM every night, and he even kept score of all the games he has played over the years.
8. He started as a naturalist that led him to his voyage around the world
Darwin’s genius came out when he had a chance to embark on a survey expedition around the world as a naturalist on board the H.M.S. Beagle voyage. During this voyage, he visited four continents between 1831 and 1836.
During this journey, he collected and investigated several fossils, birds and plants. His observations on this trip served as inspiration for his later work, including The Origin of Species.
9. He learned Taxidermy
Darwin also knew how to prepare and preserve the skins of animals, giving them a life-like form by stuffing it. He learned the skill from John Edmonstone, a freed slave, in 40 sittings of hour-long sessions.
10. He was hesitant to publish “The Origin of Species”
Darwin’s biggest contributions to humanity were his ideas and findings expressed in The Origin of Species. Darwin was conscious of the implications of his findings and was hesitant to publish them at first.
He was particularly afraid of how people would react to the claim that humanity has descended from apes. This constant struggle led him to wait almost 20 years before publishing his work.
11. He struggled with his religious views
Even though both sides of his family were freethinkers, Darwin was a devout Christian. He admitted that he took the Bible by the word, believing everything he said.
He was raised as a unitarian orthodox Christian and even studied divinity in college. His views, however, changed as he grew. Darwin's perception particularly evolved during his voyage, where he encountered different religions and cultures.
He later changed his stance to being an agnostic.
12. He has received many honors, some posthumously
Darwin is remembered today in many ways. His birthday is celebrated as Darwin day. There are about 250 species and many higher groups that bear his name.
He also appeared on the 10 Pound note between 2000 and 2017. He is buried in Westminster Abbey in London alongside John Herschel and Isaac Newton.
13. His house is going to be a University
Darwin’s birthplace is in the process of being transformed into a University. The University strives to provide global research and education in the natural sciences and is being made with the support of entrepreneur and philanthropist Louis-James Davis.
It is named simply, "The Darwin."
Darwin has been known to say, “A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, a mere heart of stone.”
A scientist must have a keen eye. But at the same time, he must be able to maintain neutrality. That is the only way to pursue the truth.
He lived and worked, true to his words and his words of advice are more relevant today than they have ever been.
It is remarkable how a man can be so influential after so many years. Charles Darwin showed us how discovery is waiting in every corner.
All we need to do is look.