Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist and geologist. He is most famous for his book On the Origin of Species, which he published in 1859. He brought forward the idea that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors. He has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history. With these 33 interesting facts about Charles Darwin, let’s discover more about his life, education, interests, theories and death.

Facts about Charles Darwin’s early life

1. Charles Darwin was the fifth of six children born to his parents.

2. Lost his mother: When Darwin was eight years old, his mother died. He was cared for and brought up by his three older sisters.

3. Rich family: Darwin came from a family of scientists and wealthy people.

4. Incomplete medical education: Charles Darwin enrolled in the medical education program at the University of Edinburgh; however, he was fascinated by nature and paid minimal attention to his medical studies. He found surgery distressing and medical lectures boring.

5. Disappointed father: His father, citing his lack of interest in medical education removed him from the college and said to him, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”

6. Bored by his medical education, Darwin enrolled at Cambridge to study divinity. During this period, he was an avid collector of beetles. He also ate some of the animals that he collected.

7. Learning Taxidermy: Charles Darwin learned taxidermy from John Edmonstone, a freed black slave from Guyana, South America, during 40 hour-long lectures. Taxidermy is the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form.

8. Record-keeping habit: Darwin maintained a notebook to record his detailed observations of birds and their habits during his studies.

9. Beagle voyage: Darwin was invited to work as a naturalist during the survey of the South American coastline by Captain Robert FitzRoy.

10. Life-Changing Voyage: Darwin visited four continents on his five-year-long H.M.S. Beagle voyage between 1831 and 1836. This proved to be the most important time of his geological career, as he collected and investigated several specimens like fossils, birds and plants.

Voyage of the Beagle. Image source – Wikipedia.

11. Break up with girlfriend: Did you know that Charles Darwin had a girlfriend during his college years with whom he broke up? She was his sister’s friend. The breakup happened due to the fact that Darwin was probably giving less attention to his girlfriend, who was also being pursued by many more attentive suitors. Darwin also received a letter from his girlfriend “Fanny” that she was going to get married.

12. Interest in hiking: During his twenties, Darwin was an avid hiker.

13. In his honor: Darwin has a mountain named after him. Mount Darwin is the highest peak in Tierra del Fuego. On February 12, 1834, Captain FitzRoy named a mountain after him on his birthday.

14. Regarding marriage: Darwin made a “pros” and “cons” list about marriage during the time he was thinking about whether or not he really wanted to be married.

15. Married his first cousin, Emma: Darwin had ten children from his marriage with his cousin. Three of these died from illness and the remaining were also unhealthy for most of their lives. Darwin had commented about the risks involved in marriages between cousins. Over a billion people live in regions where 20-50% of the marriages are “consanguineous” – defined as a union between two individuals who are related as second cousins or closer.

16. Darwin played backgammon with his wife Emma during the time he was ill after his visit to South America. In fact, he developed a schedule to play two games of Backgammon every night.

17. Animal eater: Darwin once ate an owl. According to him, the owl’s flavor was indescribable.

18. Book on earthworms: The book, entitled The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits, was published in 1881, and sold even better than On the Origin of Species. This book was also his last.

19. The voyage of The Beagle had a monumental effect on Darwin’s view of natural history. Darwin visited ecologically diverse regions such as Brazil, Chile, Australia, the Falkland Islands and the Galapagos Islands.

20. The Galapagos Islands are the home to plants and animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The islands helped Darwin greatly in his research and collection of specimens.

21. Some 250 species and several higher groups bear Darwin’s name.

22. A day for his accomplishments: On February 12, in Darwin’s honor, Darwin Day is celebrated across the world.

23. Lifelong sickness: Darwin, apart from the gains that he made with his discoveries regarding geology and nature, also happened to become ill from sea sickness. The sickness triggered lifelong health issues that Darwin endured until the end of his life.

24. After his return from the voyage, he formulated his theory of ‘Origin of Species’ between 1837 and 1839. However, he did not publish it immediately.

25. His daughter dies: In 1851, Darwin’s 10-year-old daughter died of an illness. This incident had damaging consequences on Darwin’s health, as well. During the 20 years between founding his theory of ‘Origin of Species’ and its publishing, he suffered from sickness much of the time.

“On the Origin of Species”

26. The publication trigger: Darwin might not have published his theory if he had not been triggered to publish it by his admirer Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace also developed a theory of natural selection and wanted Darwin’s opinion regarding it and its publishing. At this time, Darwin realized the importance of publishing his theory, otherwise the credit may have gone to Alfred Wallace if he ended up publishing his theory first.

27. Publishing the theory: Darwin published his theory on  November 24, 1859. He was once again struck by a tragedy when his 18-month-old son died of scarlet fever.

28. Fear of society: Due to the prevailing belief regarding the evolution of humankind, Darwin was wary of losing his reputation because of his thoughts on evolution. He described his experience as “living in Hell” while he wrote the theory, which contradicted the common belief of evolution at the time. Nobody wanted to learn that they descended from apes, which worried Darwin for much of the time.

29. The best-selling book: On the Origin of Species became a bestseller worldwide, and went into multiple editions.

30. The famous phrase: the phrase, “survival of the fittest” comes from Herbert Spencer’s 1864 publication, “Principles of Biology.” The term is largely thought to have been coined by Darwin regarding his thoughts on evolution; however, this is a wrong assumption.

Interesting facts about Charles Darwin

31. Connection with Abraham Lincoln: Another interesting fact about Darwin is that he was born on the same day Abraham Lincoln was born – February 12, 1809. Darwin and Lincoln both lost their mothers at a young age, and reportedly suffered from depression. And both men were equally important for changing the world with their accomplishments.

32. Portrait on 10-pound note: A portrait of Darwin has appeared on the British 10 pound note since the year 2000. However, it will be replaced with that of the author Jane Austen in early 2017.

33. Buried: Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey just a few feet away from another famous scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. He earned the special privilege because of his important work on the theory of evolution. The simple inscription on Darwin’s grave reads: “CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN BORN 12 FEBRUARY 1809. DIED 19 APRIL 1882.”

Darwin’s Grandfather Erasmus Darwin, from his 1794 book Zoonomia, wrote: “Would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?”

Charles Darwin, from On the Origin of Species wrote: One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.

Famous quotes by Charles Darwin

  1. “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
  2. “To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact.”
  3. “The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”
  4. “A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”
  5. “I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection.”
  6. “Man tends to increase at a greater rate than his means of subsistence.”
  7. “A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives – of approving of some and disapproving of others.”
  8. “A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.”
  9. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Quick facts about Charles Robert Darwin

BornFebruary 12, 1809, The Mount, Shrewsbury, United Kingdom
DiedApril 19, 1882, Downe, United Kingdom
Languages KnownEnglish
Age At the time of death73 years
Field of WorkNatural history, Geology
Books The Origin of Species,
Voyage of the Beagle,
The Descent of Man,
The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82,
The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals,
On Natural Selection,
It was snowing butterflies.
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals,
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,
The Power of Movement in Plants and
The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms.
AwardsRoyal Medal, Wollaston Medal, Copley Medal
ContributionsScience and Physics
EducationChrist's College, Cambridge (1828–1831)
ParentsRobert Darwin and Susannah Darwin.