III. The Life of Charles Darwin

C. Anderson

Abstract


Charles Robert Darwin was one of the greatest figures of the nineteenth century, for his momentous work on the origin of species and kindred questions initiated a revolution in human thought, perhaps even in human action. Both on his father's and his mother's side Darwin was a scion of a distinguished family. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, physician and poet, was distinguished for a vivid imagination, originality of thought, and a whimsical fancy. As is well known, he had a somewhat crude conception of the theory of evolution, though his views on this great question did not commend themselves to his more famous grandson, who considered that they contained an undue amount of speculation, unsupported by observation and reasoning. Darwin's father, Robert Waring Darwin, F.R.S., was also a physician, and, according to Darwin himself, he was a close observer and the wisest man he ever knew, but not the possessor of a scientific mind. He was apparently a remarkable man, even physically, for he was well over six feet in height and weighed twenty-four stone. He was also an excellent business man, and accumulated a considerable fortune, a fact of some importance, for Darwin was thus freed from the necessity of earning his own living, and was able to devote all his energies to his researches. Darwin's mother was Susannah Wedgwood, daughter of the celebrated potter, Josiah Wedgwood, and there can be little doubt that from this practical, hard-headed and indomitable man he inherited his perseverance and painstaking industry. The brilliant and somewhat erratic genius of Erasmus Darwin was in his grandson linked with the soberer qualities of persistence and energy inherited from the distinguished potter. In Charles Darwin the urge to theorise and generalise characteristic of the Darwins was tempered by a firm determination to test every theory and generalisation to the utmost.