Celebrate Charles Darwin’s Birthday
Charles Darwin, the British naturalist who forever changed our view of life on earth, was born on February 12, 1809. In honor of his contributions to science, this date has been deemed International Darwin Day.
A quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species
“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been provided by laws acting around us.
These laws, taken in the larges sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct acting of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.
Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed laws of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
-Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859)
Be Like Darwin
Charles Darwin has had a great impact on my life and I identify with him in many ways.
Like Darwin, I was a shy and quiet child, with an insatiable curiosity for the natural world, spending my childhood collecting grasshoppers, fireflies, and crawdads in the meadows and rivers of my home.
Like Darwin, I curated a cabinet of curiosities filled with shells, minerals, fossils, and bones and like Darwin, I was an undisciplined student, daydreaming in class about what trails I would explore on my horse that afternoon.
And like Darwin, I easily get seasick! I find it amazing that he could partake on a 5-year sea voyage around the world.
I have been lucky to visit several of the places Darwin did on his 5-year voyage of the Beagle, including the Galapagos Islands, and in my wanderings, I have seen the same evidence he saw that led him to develop his theories of evolution, such as fossils on top of mountains, the incredible geologic forces of earthquakes and volcanoes, similar species on adjacent islands, and was awestruck at the incredible biodiversity of coral reefs and rainforest.
Learn More About Charles Darwin’s Life and Work
Understanding Evolution (University of California Berkeley website)
- 10 Things You May Not Know About Charles Darwin (History channel blog post)
- The Beak of the Finch (a book about research on Darwin’s Finches)
- The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (book by David Quammen)
- The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (written by Charles Darwin)
- Darwin’s Darkest Hour (National Geographic movie)
- Your Inner Fish (PBS series based on the book by the same name on human evolution)
- Who Was Charles Darwin? (Children’s book about his life)
- What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World (Children’s book about the voyage of the beagle)
- Galapagos Islands Wildlife Sketching Workshops (replays of my live classes)
- Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle (Children’s book about the voyage of the beagle)
You can learn much more about his life and contribution to science at the International Darwin Day website, where educators can also find outstanding resources for their students.