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Darwin Turns 200

  • February 15th, 2009
  • Posted by Daniel Challis

The world has been having a season of Charles Darwin retrospectives with the recent 200th anniversary of his birth.

Later this year will see the 150th anniversary of his most famous publication “The Origin of the Species”, his revolutionary book that set out to answer burning questions about how vast numbers of species existed on Earth…

FORWARD THINKER

Charles Darwin was a naturalist who went against the ‘normal’ understanding of his time as to where and how people were placed on the planet.

As the world celebrates his 200th birthday, his theories have lasted the distance but nonetheless continue to be controversial.

“Origin of the Species” describes how animals have beneficial genetic traits, and how they in turn pass these superior traits onto their offspring.

An accumulation of traits begins to occur and the final result is a different animal.

Darwin called this process “the survival of the fittest” or “natural selection”.

”There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows”, he wrote.

Darwin’s theory of evolution would later be connected to humans living in society.

It was co-opted and taken to outrageous extremes. Some historians consider Adolf Hitler’s plan to create a “supreme race” by practicing eugenics, stemmed from his notions about Darwin’s theories.

BOUND FOR AUSTRALIA

Darwin aged 22 embarked on his celebrated voyage to South America and then Australia on board HMS Beagle, a step in his path as a naturalist on the way to revolutionary/evolutionary science.

Here on the five-year voyage he established himself as an eminent geologist, and naturalist, following a course through the Pacific, Africa and South America.

Spending long periods ashore collecting specimens of many kinds, he would develop his initial thoughts to do with evolution.

In Australia, Darwin found the marsupial rat-kangaroo and the platypus to look so unusual that he thought two different Creators had been at work.

He found the Aborigines to be “good-humoured and pleasant” and noted their depletion in numbers because of European settlement.

“The number of aborigines is rapidly decreasing… no doubt partly owing to the introduction of spirits, to European diseases … and to the gradual extinction of the wild animals… Wherever the European has trod, death seems to pursue the aboriginal”, said Charles Darwin, in his Voyage of the Beagle.

darwin-nt-govt.JPGThe Northern city of Darwin, named in his honour, has been fit to survive, through bombardments, the crocodile menace, cyclone and flood.

Picture:

Charles Darwin as a young man, wikimedia.org;HMS Beagle voyage, wikimedia.org; city of Darwin, NT.govt

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