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Darwin timeline

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Darwin timeline


1809 – (2 Feb) Charles Darwin is born at The Mount, Shrewsbury, the fifth child of Robert Waring Darwin, physician, and Susannah Wedgwood
1817 – Darwin’s mother dies, his three older sisters assuming her role. Darwin starts at Unitarian day school
1818-1825 – Darwin attends Shrewsbury School as a boarder but hates it, dewscribing the school as ‘narrow and classical’
1825 – Removed from school, regarded as unsuccessful he spends the summer accompanying his father on his doctor’s rounds before being sent in the autumn to Edinburgh University with his brother Erasmus to study medicine
1825-1827 – Attends medical school at Edinburgh University but becomes disillusioned and spends his time mostly on natural history interests
1826-1827 – Studies marine invertrebrates in the Firth of Forth with brother Erasmus and then scientist Robert Grant; a member of the University Plinian Society which debated controversial issues in biology
1826-1830 – HMS Beagle and HMS Adventure sent by British Admiralty to map the coasts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego; suicide of Captain Stokes and replacement by Robert Fitzroy
1826 – Joins the Plinian Society in Edinburgh and meets his most influential Edinburgh mentor Robert Grant
1827 – Finding medicine abhorrent he leaves Edinburgh without taking a degree, his father, fearing Charles will become idle, insists that he take up clerical studies in Cambridge
1828 – After re-learning Greek, Darwin enters Christ’s College, Cambridge
1830 – Charles Lyell publishes Principles of Geology
1828-1831 – Attends Christ’s College Cambridge to complete the Bachelor of Arts needed to become an Anglican minister but cultivates his relationship with botanist John Henslow and geologist-botanist Adam Sedgwick, joining Sedgwick on a study tour of Snowdonia in North Wales in 1831; received letter from John Henslow inviting him to join the HMS Beagle circumnavigation
1831-1836 – Voyage of HMS Beagle – Madeira, Tenerife, Santiago, Bahia, Rio, Montevideo, Tierra del Fuego, Chiloe, Falklands, Galapagos, Hobart, Sydney, Cocos Keeling, Cape of Good Hope
1836 – 12 January docks in Sydney and explores the Botanic Gardens and Domain, then on to Hobart, arriving in the West in March
1831 – Sits BA exam and is amazing to be ranked 10th out of 178 candidates
1831 – (27th Dec.) finally sets sail on HMS Beagle
1836 – (October) – HMS Beagle returns to England, docking at Falmouth in October. Darwin finds that Henslow has already published some of his letters in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society and Sedgwick had read extracts to the Geological Society of London
1836 – Between 1826 and 1836 Darwin publishes five volumes of his Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle establishing his reputation as a scientist and author
1836 – Meets the geologist Lyell for the first time
1837 – Sketches preliminary evolutionary trees in his notebooks
1837 – (4th Jan.) Reads his first scientific paper Observations…on the coast of Chile at the Geological Society in London
1837 – Moves from Cambridge to 36 Great Marlborough Street, London
1838 – Elected to the Athenaeum
1838 – Reads and is impressed by Thomas Malthus’s On Population; spends time studying the artificial selection of palnts, birds, dogs, horses and birds
1839 – Moves to Down House in Downe, Kent; publication of Voyage of the Beagle with Fitzroy (published separately in 1845)
1839 – Joseph Dalton Hooker sails to the Antarctic in HMS Erebus
1839 – HMS Beagle journal is published under the title Journals and Remarks volume three of Darwin’s Narrative
1839 – Marries Emma Wedgwood, his first cousin: first child, William Erasmus, born on Dec. 27
1839 – Elected to the Royal Society
1840 – Elected to the Council of the Royal Geographical Society
1841 – Fitzroy appointed to House of Commons
1841Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs published
1842 – Writes a 35 page sketch of his evolutionary theory
1842 – Writes a 35-page synopsis of his theory which has extended to 230 pages by 1844
1842 – Darwin and his young family move to Down House
1843-4 – Writes Volcanic Islands
1843 – Fitzroy appointed Governor of New Zealand
1844 – Pleased by Joseph Hooker’s response to early drafts of his evolutionary theory, Darwin completes a 231 page manuscript while, in the same year, Robert Chambers publishes Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a popularisation of evolution theory that is generally rejected
1846 – Darwin completes his last book describing the voyages of HMS Beagle, Geological Observations on South America
1846 – Huxley appointed Assistant Surgeon on HMS Rattlesnake
1847 – Huxley meets Henrietta, the girl of his dreams, in Sydney
1849 – Darwin no longer attends Church but goes for walks instead
1850 – Huxley appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society
1851 – The first of two volumes on stalked barnacles is published, revising this subclass of both fossil and living Cirripedia
1853 – The Royal Society awards Darwin the Royal Medal for his work on barnacles
1854 – Elected to the Royal Society Philosophical Club and to the Linnean Society
1855 – Performs experiments to show that seeds, plants and animals can reach oceanic islands, where they might produce new species in geographic isolation
1856 – (April) Invites Huxley and other naturalists to a weekend party to discuss his ideas on the origin of species and then begins writing encouraged by Lyell and the concern that others might publish first
1856 – Darwin begins final work on his Origin, completing 10 chapters
1857 – Fitzroy appointed Rear Admiral of the Fleet
1858 – Darwin is asked to comment on Alfred Wallace’s views on evolution, so similar to his own; on 1 July the two views are jointly presented to the Linnean Society
1858 – (1st July) Wallace sends Darwin his own similar interpretation of evolution. Advised by Hooker and Lyell extracts from Darwin’s work and a paper by Wallace are presented at the Linnean Society, later published as On the tendency of species to form varieties in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology). Wallace is informed after the event but is content
1859 – Darwin writes the book without references and therefore appropriate for a general reading public and titled On the Origin of Species … The 1859 print run of 1250 copies is oversubscribed so he begins corrections for a second edition. Huxley proveds a forthright defender of Darwin’s thesis
1859 – Publishes On the Origin of Species with 1,250 sold immediately followed rapidly by two more print runs
1860 – Public debate on evolution organised by the British Association at the Oxford University Museum. Thomas Huxley clashes with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Darwin does not attend
1864 – Awarded the Copley medal, a scientific award given by the Royal Society for ‘outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science’ and alternating between the physical and the biological sciences. On the Origin of Species is omitted from the award
1865 – FitzRoy commits suicide by cutting his throat with a razor
1866 – Darwinism dominates the views of the British Association as his supporters Hooker and Huxley assume consecutive presidency
1868The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication is published
1869 – Huxley coins the word ‘agnostic’
1871The Descent of Man is published, and the … Origin … is extensively re-written to answer arguments by Mivart – the sixth and last edition uses the word ‘evolution’ for the first time
1872Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals completes his evolutionary writings
1877 – Cambridge bestows Darwin with an honorary doctorate of law
1877The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species dedicated to Harvard Professor of Botany Asa Gray
1880The Power of Movement in Plants published 6 November 1880 by John Murray, soon selling 1500 copies
1881The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms assisted by his son Francis
1882 – (10th April) After a heart attack followed by seizures, Charles Darwin dies in great suffering at Down House. He is later buried in Westminster Abbey
2014 – Genetic analysis of Darwin’s beard hairs reveal that he suffered from Crohn’s disease

[1] This chronology includes entries from that at

First published on the internet – 1 March 2019

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