Interesting Facts About Charles Darwin

By Grace Taylor

Circa 1880: British scientist Charles Darwin who founded the principles of evolutionary theory after an expedition to the Galapagos Islands. Original Artist: By Elliott & Fry. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Had A Lot In Common With Abraham Lincoln

Both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on February 12, 1809, though they hailed from different sides of the earth. They were both autodidacts, as Lincoln "read" law rather than attending law school and Darwin used his skills of observation to revolutionize the scientific world with his Origin Of Species. Likewise, they were both ardently against slavery, with Darwin calling it a "monstrous stain on our boasted liberty."

He Wanted To Be A Doctor Or Priest

Darwin's first plan in life was to follow his father's footsteps and become a doctor. He even went as far as enrolling in medical school at the University of Edinburgh in 1825 but quickly found he didn't have the stomach for the work, to the point that the sight of blood made him queasy. He then set his educational sights on Christian theology but had a crisis of faith after three of his children died and his travels constantly confronted him with the evils of slavery, leaving him wondering how a loving god could let such horrible things happen to so many people. Contrary to what many believe, however, he never claimed to be an atheist, despite giving up on the idea of priesthood.

H.M.S. Beagle in the seaways of Tierra del Fuego. (Conrad Martens/Wikimedia Commons)

He Waited 20 Years To Reveal His Breakthrough

Much of Darwin's revelations about the theory of evolution stemmed from his time on the H.M.S. Beagle, an expedition that took him to places like the Galapagos and lasted a whopping five years. Though he called it quits on his travels in 1836, he knew his idea was radical and feared how it might be received, especially as someone who knew Christian theology well.

However, in the late 1850s, fellow man of science Alfred Russel Wallace announced a similar theory that he planned to bring to the scientific community. It was now or never, so Darwin finally released On The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection, Or The Preservation Of Favoured Races In The Struggle For Life in 1858.

Emma Darwin in the late 1830s. (George Richmond/Wikimedia Commons)

He Married His Cousin

It might seem scandalous to modern eyes and ears, but back in the 1800s, before the ins and outs of genetics were fully understood, it wasn't so weird to marry cousins, even first cousins. As a result, no one batted an eye when Darwin married Emma Wedgwood after compiling a "pros and cons" list about marriage. No one could have called him a romantic, but they had 10 children together, three of whom died very young, and only three of the seven who survived to adulthood managed to have their own children. Later, while studying plant breeding, Darwin realized genetically diverse plants tended to produce the healthiest offspring and deduced (probably correctly) that his own family's inbreeding could have been a factor in their infertility and poor health.

He Ate Some Really Weird Stuff

During his travels, Darwin was known to have an extremely open mind when it came to dining on the local cuisine. Even as a college student, he was quite the foodie, joining the Glutton Club at Cambridge, who banded together to eat the weirdest foods its members could find. He was known to have eaten ostrich, puma, armadillo, iguana, and hawk. The only thing he found off-putting enough to spit out was owl, but the agouti, a 20-lb. rodent native to South America, was reportedly "the very best meat [he] ever tasted."

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Grace Taylor

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