Development Of Charles Darwin Essay, Research Paper
In the development of any one person, the people who touch their lives, in and out, day after day, and the thoughts and feelings that they stirred are summed and that quantity represents a large portion of the individual. When looking at the development of someone with as great an impact as Charles Darwin, the people with whom he kept aqaintence shine right through. From the love and support of family, to the help and guidance of friends, Charles Darwin had it all, and yet suffered all alone in his genius for years. The people who he encountered sculpted the man that we know of as Charles Darwin, out of a failure at schooling and a timid bearer of the theory that toppled Biblical science forever.
Where did it all begin? What was the factor that started the ball rolling, and gave it the momentum to keep lurching ahead? “As a distraction from his sister’s regime, Charles played solitary games in the vast family home. His father had become interested in the fashionable study of natural history and there were rooms full of exotic collections, stuffed animals and old bones. A massive greenhouse attached to the side of the house was a veritable jungle to a young boy and it was in this environment of learned eccentricity and an unforced seeking of knowledge that Darwin’s fascination for natural history and biology began.” (D 6) However, growing up in the family home of Dr. Robert Darwin, was not exactly the most pleasant aspect of young Charles Darwin’s life.
After the death of his mother, Charles had become rather listless and buried himself in his work or in the pursuits of wealthy youth. The time after the loss of him mother was a wasted period spent in an institution which did not foster nor nurture the scientist we know of as Charles Darwin. The time he spent at Shrewsbury School was in Darwin’s own words useless, however it seemed to act as a time for him to accomplish two very important habits. Primarily Darwin took the time to get closer to his brother, Erasmus. Charles’ elder by four years, Erasmus became his best friend as the explored the sciences, something that Srewsbury school was seriously deficient in. At this time Darwin also sought the comfort found in the analysis of the natural world. “About the time he began at Shrewsbury, Charles took to going on long, solitary walks in the nearby countryside.” (D 9) However silently and patiently his love of nature crept upon Darwin he absorbed it all the same, and with the help of his brother’s love for chemistry, the two blended perfectly.
The homogenization of Darwin’s newly found interest in the physical sciences and analytical theory (helped by their father’s gift of a chemical laboratory) with the slow and patient love of the natural world had repercussions felt around the globe. From playing with chemicals and earning the nickname of “Gas”, to trips to the countryside, the young Darwin had been properly exposed to that which would become his lifelong burden: scientific thought and reason. Convinced that the Shrewsbury School was a waste of time for his son’s education, Robert removed Charles and took him under his own wing in the position of his medical apprentice. After a summer of moderately successful medical training, Robert sent Charles to Edinburgh to study medicine with his brother Erasmus. Edinburgh proved to be yet another one of the major steps for Darwin on the road to his own enlightenment. The Plinian society taught Darwin to worry about the acceptance of a theory which was not really received very well. Seeing his comrade’s paper struck from the records of the society perhaps caused Charles to fear the effects of a theory that was not properly received. The influence of Robert Grant helped to sure the growth of a nonconformist nature in Charles. However later in his life, after returning from the fateful voyage of the Beagle Darwin may have been sorry to have formed a relationship with Grant. “His old mentor in Edinburgh, the outspoken Robert Grant, would have been receptive [to his new theory] but would have also been the worst possible person with whom to confide. Grant was a natural revolutionary and partly brought about his own academic and social suicide by having no regard for whom he talked to and what he declared in public.” (D 107) As Darwin grew as a scientist he became more and more frightened of the effects of his alternative theories would have on his social standing.
However before we err in the way of jumping ahead of ourselves, let us look at the fateful voyage of the Beagle. Darwin’s pessimism and own lack of self-esteem would have kept him away from the voyage, had it not been for his father’s closest friend Jos Wedgwood. Jos assisted Charles in writing a letter to his father detailing the need for the voyage. While the voyage was certainly no place for the newly becoming clergyman that Charles was supposed to be, his father accented to the idea, and allowed him both the time and the funds to go along as ship’s naturalist aboard the Beagle.
This is the point in Charles’ life where he first meets Captain FitzRoy. Later to become a thorn in Darwin’s side, FitzRoy seeks Darwin as a friend and a comrade as well as the scientist that his expedition needed. FitzRoy played a crucial role as the Devil’s advocate in the eyes of Darwin. later to argue that Darwin had not come up with any sound findings during his voyage on the Beagle, FitzRoy was certain to fall victim to the inherited traight of suicide. Perhaps his death was because of the stress imposed by Darwin, or perhaps it was only an illustration of the shortcomings in his own personality.
On page 55 of the book Darwin: a life in science their relationship was described as thus: “The two men had views representing the polar opposites of the time. On the one hand, Darwin, sometimes described as a mutaphiliac because of his ability to embrace change, and on the other, FitzRoy, the mutaphobe, a man who wished to maintain the status quo, a fundamentalist christian and a believer in the natural superiority if whites over all other races. Living together in such a close proximity on board the same tiny vessel, arguments were inevitable.” How could it be said any better? FitzRoy and the High Tories of that time enraged the sensible Darwin and in his own words from The Voyage of the Beagle states what he thinks of the whole concept of slavery “‘It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty.’” (D 57) Clearly such thoughts enraged both Darwin at their lack of liberty, and FitzRoy at their seeming foolishness. Darwin got a taste of what it means to have to stand up for a belief while aboard the Beagle. The development of Darwin as an orator was clearly halted at this point in his life, for FitzRoy was too harsh a man to competently argue with for his stone cold heart and lack of faith in humanity prevented him from accepting alternate views of society and nature.
Darwin had the best of contact when he was aboard the Beagle, for without the help of John Steven’s Henslow, to be the receptor of all the items that Darwin collected and cataloged on his trip. Henslow who had been Darwin’s mentor at Cambridge was the person who orginally saw to making Darwin a renowned and famous naturalist while he was adrift on the seas. The constant companion of Darwin during the voyage was The Principles of Geology by Lyell. The book certainly acted as a fundamental springboard for the growth of Darwin’s Evolutionary thought. Later proving Lyell wrong on the growth and nature of Coral Reefs, Darwin began the actual life of a research scientist. Perhaps the most important discovery that Darwin made was off the coast of Chile.
During his stay in Chile Darwin experienced a rather forceful Earthquake which managed to lift mussel beds far above the high tide line, thus illustrating the concept of plate tectonics, which was to be the theory which assisted him in becoming a noted Geologist as well as a member of the Geological Society of England. ” It made him realize, more than anything else he had ever experienced, just how frail and puny human beings were and just how insignificant are the works of humans compared with the power of the earth beneath our feet.” (D 75) Thus began Darwin’s development away from the faith that humans have a special place in the scheme of life on this Earth.
Many would agree that the most developmentally significant part of Darwin’s journey on the Beagle, as far as the Theory of Evolution and the concept of natural selection goes, would have been his connection with the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos have henceforth become a symbol of Darwinian Evolution. I am reminded of the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Galapagos where evolution is clearly illustrated in a most bizarre and peculiar sense. Yet I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it for anyone with both a sense of humor and a love for natural selection. However it is not relevant to the concept that the Galapagos are a fundamental step in Darwin’s development as a scientist. All his years of scientific thought had not prepared him for what wonders he would experience on these small char broiled islands. “Although Darwin did not at the time realize the significance of the various species of both of these creatures [finches and tortoises], differing as they did from one island to another, later when he began to analyze his samples and to piece together his findings, their importance became clear and acted as the experimental backbone of his theory.” (D 78) The relevancy that these sun drenched islands had on Darwin’s theories will never be lost to history for they are the stone which gives weight to his theories.
“October 8th – The natural history of these islands is eminently curious,
and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are
aboriginal creations [endemic species] found nowhere else; there is even a
difference between the inhabitants of the different islands. Hence, both in
space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact,
that mystery of mysteries-the first appearance of new beings on this
earth.” Charles Darwin, 1845*
The real work began for Darwin when he returned to England. Darwin spent many more years nurturing his theories. With the help of his loving wife and their many children Darwin survivied. The reason why I mention this as being a unique thing is because of the harmful plague that Darwin had to endure for the rest of his life after returning from the tropics. What was this plague, this illness that annoyed both Darwin and his family for so many years. ” The first symptoms where stomach cramps and headaches, but during the following years Darwin experienced skin disorders, bouts of eczema, rheumatoid pains, insomnia, odd body swellings, and heart palpatations.” (D 108) The thought was that this was psychosomatic in nature stemming from his mother’s death at such a young age, or rather caused by some horrid tropical pathogen, however, a theory stands which I certainly attribute the causle of his malady to. “Another strongly argued theory is that Darwin’s health problems stemmed from the internal conflict over his secret work throughout the late 1830’s and 1840’s . This matter did undoubtedly create huge stress for him.” (D 109) The stress created by the work he secretly feared would wipe him off the face of the Earth, is in this students mind the most uneffable reason for his symptoms. Surely there may have been some medical basis in the tropical disease that he fell victem to in Chile, however it may be unlikely that he would have suffered as greatly had he not been harbouring such a vast secret for so long.
The last thing to mention, the last key in the Development of the Charles Darwin that we have to behold today, is the help and aid of three of his friends and comrades. Charles Lyell for talking the publishers into publishing the Origin of the Species. Joseph Hooker for proofing the manuscript and his children to bringing it into the light of day. And lastly the greatest respect and perhaps fault lay upon Thomas Henry Huxley. “Huxley, having been well trained and prepaired to do for evolution what Darwin could never manage – to fight for its validity against the bigots and disclaimers – stood for the cause, while the author pottered around Down House.” (D 221) huxley became the strongest leg for which the perhaps underdeveloped Darwin needed to stand upon. Darwin was never able to stand up for his own theory, and it was not surprising that he died miserable, yet content with his family. He lost his faith in a god that he disproved existed, and perhaps also with a lack of faith in himself. Undeserving the stuggle he had to contend with, Darwin certianly has the respect of this student as well as many others.