Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
He was the son of Robert WaringDarwin and his wife Susannah; and the grandson of the scientist Erasmus Darwin,and of the potter Josiah Wedgwood. His mother died when he was eight years old,and he was brought up by his sister. He was taught classics at Shrewsbury, thensent to Edinburgh to study medicine, which he hated, and a final attempt ateducating him was made by sending him to Christ’s College, Cambridge, to studytheology (1827). During that period he loved to collect plants, insects, andgeological specimens, guided by his cousin William Darwin Fox, an entomologist. His scientific inclinations were encouraged by his botany professor, JohnStevens Henslow, who was instrumental, depsite heavy paternal opposition, insecuring a place for Darwin as a naturalist on the surveying expedition of HMSBeagle to Patagonia (1831-6).Order now
Under Captain Robert Fitzroy, he visited Tenerife,the Cape Verde Is, Brazil, Montevideo, Tierra del Fuego, Buenos Aires,Valparaiso, Chile, the Galapagos, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Tasmania. In theKeeling Is he devised his theory of coral reefs. During this five-yearexpedition he obtained intimate knowledge of the fauna, flora, and geology ofmany lands, which equipped him for his later investigations. By 1846 he hadpublished several works on the geologcial and zoological descoveries of hisvoyage- works that placed him at once in the front rank of scientists.
Hedeveloped a friendship with Sir Charles Lyell, became secretary of theGeological Society (1838-41), and in 1839 married his cousin Emma Wedgewood(1808-96). From 1842 he lived at Down House, Downe, Kent, a country gentlemanamong his gardens, conservatories, pigeons, and fowls. The practical knowledgehe gained there, especially in variation and interbreeding, proved invaluable. Private means enabled him to devote himself to science, in spite of continuousill-health: it was not realized until after his death that he had suffered fromChagas’s diasease, which he had contracted from an insect bite while in SouthAmerica.
At Down House he addressed himself to the great work of his life- theproblem of the origin of species. After five years of collecting the evidence,he began to speculate on the subject. In 1842 he drew up his observations insome short.