Charles Darwin - Creativity and Science
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
English naturalist (pictured right).
Famous for his theory of evolution, based on his observations of different species during
his famous voyage (1831-6) in the Beagle, pictured right below, to South America and
the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific.
Hugely influential in:
- protecting the environment.
- preserving different species.
His most famous book
The Origin of Species (1859)
This discussed his theory of evolution.
Why was he so creative?
Darwin's theory of evolution disproved the
traditional Christian view that God:
- created the world
in six days.
- filled it with perfect and complete creatures
like Adam and Eve.
People evolved from
apes, Darwin said (leading to attacks like the 1871 caricature pictured right).
So lots of people just couldn’t believe:
- Darwin's related idea of natural selection (i.e. survival in a species by those
organisms best able to adapt to their environment).
This led to Herbert Spencer's (pictured right) idea of the “survival of the
fittest” , introduced in 1864
But Darwin was a reluctant revolutionary.
He kept his theory secret for 20 years until 1858, because he didn’t want to offend anybody.
He was encouraged to publish by the publication of an academic article on evolution by the Welsh naturalist,
Alfred Wallace (1823-1913), pictured right.
2. Determination and
His discoveries needed much thought and hard work.
He also had to overcome:
- continuous bad
health (made worse by intense oppositon to evolution,
particularly from the Church - see point 1).
- the death of his favourite
daughter, Annie (pictured right), aged 10 (which destroyed his Christian
faith, although not his wife’s).
But he was still driven by compassion for other people and hated
He was dedicated to proving scientifically that blacks and whites
3. Wealth and leisure
- came from a very wealthy family, whose connections helped him to get the job as naturalist on the Beagle’s
- married Emma, the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the pottery millionaire
(pictured right below).
- was rich enough to live, think and work at home in Downe, Kent, from 1842 onwards.
- spent on average a night away from home every week, visiting various parts of Britain to take plant
samples for his experiments.
4. Observation, thinking and attention to detail
During his five year voyage on the Beagle, he:
- sent back to Britain specimens of animals, plants, rocks and fossils.
- used his notes and observations to create his theory of evolution and other new ideas
like cross-pollination between flowers.
He listed the advantages and disadvantages of a particular idea
(even his marriage!) before deciding upon its validity.
He had the devoted support of:
- his wife, Emma, pictured right above (despite his views about women’s
- other naturalists (particularly Joseph Dalton Hooker, pictured right, and
Thomas Huxley, pictured right below).
Hooker and Huxley's eloquence strongly defended evolution, much better than Darwin, who was shy and had poor
He was always intensely curious about new ideas, and all the different plants, animals and
people he found in the Galápagos Islands.
Closely examining their differences gave him the idea of evolution.
7. Courageous lover of truth
His whole life was spent experimenting and learning in pursuit of
He was prepared to fight for his views against his critics, many of them Christians.
8. Application of different subjects and energy
To explain evolution, he drew on philosophy, literature and economics, as well as science.
Darwin also wrote an estimated six million words in books, articles and letters!
Key quote on competitive advantage
In the struggle for survival, the fittest win at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting
themselves to their environment.
Key quote on
The law, does not concern itself with
trifles, does not apply to science.
Key quote on
family and children
How paramount the future to the present when one is surrounded by
Key quote on
The more efficient causes of progress seem to consist of a good education...and of a high standard of
Key quote on time management
A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
Key quote on relationships
A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.
Key quote on learning
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.