Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

People Who Influenced Darwin

Below is a list of people who had an influence on the life of Charles Darwin. While this is not an exhaustive list, it does cover all of those who had a major influence on his life. Please note that is list does not include family members. They will be discussed on a forthcoming page.


Agassiz, Jean Louis [1807 – 1873]

Agassiz was a Swiss born geologist and zoologist. He emigrated to the United States in 1846 and was a professor of natural history at Harvard University from 1847-73. He developed the novel theory that a previous ice age once engulfed the entire surface of the palpites basquete nba hoje earth and supposedly this ice age separated the two “creation events” of god. Determined to prove himself right, Agassiz spent time in the Amazon Basin trying to find proof that glaciers were once there. He was not successful.


Charles Darwin and Louis Agassiz started a correspondence in the mid-1840’s and soon became good friends. When Darwin was thinking about starting a comprehensive study of barnacles in 1846, Agassiz wrote to Darwin that such research was in great demand and he should by all means pursue it. Indeed, when Agassiz heard that Darwin was looking for different varieties of barnacles to study he sent him a huge crate full of specimens. When “Origin of Species” was published in 1859, Darwin sent Agassiz a complimentary 1st edition. Agassiz was not very impressed with Darwin’s theory of natural selection, being convinced rather that each species was a separate divine creation ordained palpites jogos de hoje basquete by god. During the late 1800’s Agassiz became one of the most influential opponents of evolutionary theory in the United States.

Babbage, Charles [1791 – 1871]

Babbage was the son of a wealthy London banker. In 1810 he attended Trinity College at Cambridge, then transferred to Peterhouse College and graduated in 1814. He was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1816. From 1827-39 Babbage was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge and it was at this time that he developed his analytical engine (the grandfather of all modern day computers). He was the author of the “Ninth Bridgewater Treatise,” a paper which illustrated the divine laws of nature. Babbage created his analytical engine to show how these divine laws work.


Babbage introduced Charles Darwin to the notion that everything in nature works according to specific laws. This idea prompted Darwin to seek out these mysterious laws of nature as they apply to the transmutation of species. However, after tinkering with his transmutation ideas for a short time, Charles Darwin came to see that random chance events in the natural world must also play a role in species modification.

Beaufort, Capt. Francis [1774 – 1857]

Capt. Beaufort was an officer in the British Royal Navy and fought in the Napoleonic Wars. He was put in charge of Britain’s Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty in 1824. He was a good friend of Revd. George Peacock, a mathematics tutor at Cambridge University.


Capt. Beaufort was officially in charge of the H.M.S. Beagle, and he played a key role in Darwin becoming naturalist during the Beagle’s second survey mission. A chain of events which led to this occurrence played out as follows: Robert FitzRoy was made Captain of the Beagle in early 1831. He desired that a well trained naturalist should accompany him on the Beagle’s second voyage, so he wrote to Capt. Beaufort requesting advice on who would best fill this position. Capt. Beaufort was not sure who to suggest so he wrote to his friend, Revd. George Peacock, in Cambridge, who in turn asked his friend, Revd. John Stevens Henslow, who then suggested Charles Darwin would be superbly qualified for the job. One of Darwin’s concerns regarding the voyage was the matter of ownership of the specimens he sent back to England. It was standard procedure for all specimens collected during surveying missions to become the property of the British Government, although sometimes this policy varied. Capt. Beaufort assured Darwin that he would be able to dispose of his collections any way he saw fit. The rules may have been bent because Darwin would be paying his own way on the voyage rather than being a paid member of the crew.

Bradlaugh, Charles [1833 – 1891]

Bradlaugh was one of the more secular thinkers during the late 1800’s and a firm atheist. He formed the radical idea that the poor of England would be able to lessen their burdens by learning how to use contraceptive devices, and as a result, having less children to feed. He even went so far as to publish a “do-it-yourself” pamphlet on how to use contraceptives. His ideas caused a huge uproar across England, and he was very quickly brought before the London criminal court for the crime of distributing his heretical contraceptive pamphlet.


Bradlaugh tried to get Charles Darwin to come to his trial and support him but Darwin refused, claiming his ill health prevented him from coming to London. In truth, Charles Darwin had a particular dislike for such radical trouble making atheists.

Broderip, William John [1789 – 1859]

A magistrate (justice of the peace) in the Thames Police Court and an avid naturalist. In 1826 he was one of the founders of the Zoological Society in London.


Broderip offered to look over the shells that Darwin brought back from the Beagle voyage.

Brown, Robert [1773 – 1858]

Brown was one of the preeminent Scottish botanists of the day and worked as the curator of the British Museum in London. Like Darwin, he too was a naturalist aboard a British survey vessel; in his case it was a survey of the Australian coastline in 1801. Brown was the first to describe the cell nucleus (in 1831), and he discovered that the “particles” inside cells appeared to be possessed by some sort of mysterious “force.” This discovery was later to be called Brownian Motion.


While Charles Darwin was in London shopping for things he would need for the Beagle voyage, he consulted with Brown. He eagerly assisted Darwin on botanic matters and gave him particular advice on what brand of microscope he should take with him on the voyage (it was a single lens unit made by Bancks and Son, the instrument makers to King George IV). When Darwin returned from the voyage Brown offered to examine his plant collections, but Darwin declined because Brown still had a huge pile of plants from another voyage from six years ago that he had yet to examine. Charles Darwin did, however, allow him to examine his fossilized wood specimens from the Andes Mountains and mushrooms from Tierra del Fuego.

Busk, George [1807 – 1886]

Busk was a surgeon for the Royal British Navy, and after retirement he became a major contributor to many scientific societies in Britain. His primary interest was comparative anatomy. He was a proponent of evolution and a good friend of Thomas Huxley. On November 3, 1864 he became one of the founding members of the X-Club, a social dinner club for scientists who wanted to engage in pure scientific research without the interference of religious dogma. The X-Club was to become a very powerful force in Royal Society politics during the late 1800’s.


George Busk translated Herman Schaaffhausen’s 1858 paper on the discovery of the skull of Neanderthal man which was recently found in a cave at Dusseldorf, Germany. The paper was published in the journal “Natural History Review” in April of 1858. It is very likely that Charles Darwin read this paper with great interest, as he was at the time getting ready to publish his Origin of Species book. Such news of a potential human ancestor would have reassured him that the topic of evolution was becoming more acceptable for public discussion.

Carlile, Richard [???? – ????]

Carlile was an English freethinker who appears to have taken great delight in promoting anti-Christian sentiments. While Charles Darwin was attending Cambridge University, Carlile and his friend Robert Taylor came to town in order to engage the heads of all the colleges to a debate on the validity of the Christian faith. They went about causing all sorts of trouble, seeking out impressionable young students who may also be freethinkers, and gave many anti-Christian speeches. The dons of Cambridge would not stand for this nonsense, and soon Carlile and Taylor were forced to leave Cambridge.


The treatment of Carlile and Taylor by the Cambridge dons was not soon forgotten by Darwin. The message was quite clear – preaching anti-Christian rhetoric and challenging the authority of the Church of England was blasphemy, and those that dared to cross the line faced severe ridicule at best; and a prison term at worst (there were strict laws against heresy during this time).

Chambers, Robert [1802 – 1871]

In October 1844 Chambers published (anonymously) a controversial book titled, “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.” This was the book that brought the notion of transmutation out into the public arena. It attempted to described the entire evolution of the universe, from planets to people, as being driven by a self developing force which acted according to natural laws. The book was written more for the poor working class of England rather than the scientific elite for it appealed to their desire to “evolve” beyond their wretched economic circumstances. The book received widespread criticism, mainly because the ideas it contained went against the old scientific school which adhered to the idea that nature did not evolve according to unguided laws, but rather by the divine hand of god. Despite the harsh criticism, Vestiges sold very well.


The reaction of the scientific elite to the Vestiges taught Darwin that his own ideas of transmutation would be met with grave hostility. This attitude left Darwin faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, nearly all of his friends were members of the scientific elite, but on the other hand it was this same elite group of people that Darwin would rely on to promote his ideas.

Chapman, John [1821 – 1894]

A medical doctor by trade, he also published the books of many authors including those of Herbert Spencer. In the summer of 1851 he bought the publication: “Westminster Review” which at the time was in a poor state. His goal was to remake it as a journal for free thinkers. He soon acquired a number of supporters including John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Huxley. Within a short time the journal became a voice for evolutionists.


The success of the Westminster Review was a sign to Darwin that the discussion of evolutionary ideas were starting to come out into the open and the hostility that naturalists once expressed on such matters was finally cooling down. This was a turn of events that Darwin had been waiting fifteen years for.

Covington, Syms [about 1816 – 1861]

Covington was a young crew member of H.M.S. Beagle whose duty was to take care of the various odd-jobs that constantly needed to be done aboard a ship. He also played the fiddle.


Syms Covington became Darwin’s servant during the spring of 1833 while they were exploring the interior of Maldonado in South America. Darwin hired Covington for £30 a year and in short order taught him how to shoot a gun and stuff birds. After the voyage Covington stayed on as Darwin’s servant, helping him unload his specimens from the Beagle while they stayed in London. Covington left England in February 1839 to join the huge migration of Brits to Australia. Darwin kept up a correspondence with him for quite a few years.

Campbell, George Douglas – 9th Duke of Argyll [1823 – 1900]

The Duke of Argyll was the Postmaster General of England. He was a staunch anti-evolutionist who believed in the sudden appearance of new species by divine intervention. He also thought that beauty in nature was a clear sign of god’s desire to please mankind.


The Duke of Argyll did not understand how Charles Darwin missed the obvious point that in natural selection a “selector” was needed, just as animal breeders make selective choices. Together with Richard Owen and Asa Gray, he tried to see to it that the theories of Charles Darwin did not get a foothold in British society. Ironically the Duke of Argyll was a pallbearer at Charles Darwin’s funeral.

Edmonstone, John [???? – ????]

John was a freed black slave from Guyana, South America, who made his living in Edinburgh teaching University students the art of taxidermy. He lived at 37 Lothian Street in Edinburgh, just a few doors down from where Charles Darwin and his brother, Erasmus, lived. John learned his trade from Charles Waterton, an early 1800’s British naturalist.


While Darwin was a student at Edinburgh University he hired John to teach him taxidermy. The two of them often sat together for conversation and John would fill Darwin’s head with vivid pictures of the tropical rain forests of South America. These pleasant conversations with John may have later inspired Darwin to dream about exploring the tropics. In any event, the taxidermy skills Darwin learned from him were indispensable during his voyage aboard H.M.S. Beagle in 1831.

Falconer, Hugh [1808 – 1865]

Falconer was one of the preeminent British paleontologist of the day. He worked for the British Museum in London. In 1858 he found some stone tool scrapers in a cave at the Devon coast. Soon afterwards, other stone tools were found in the same area dating from pre-iceage times, thus confirming that mankind had pre-dated the ice age. Falconer was the gentleman who told Richard Owen about a lizard-bird fossil discovered in Solenhofen, Germany. Owen bought the fossil for the British Museum for £450 and dubbed it “Archaeopteryx” during a speech he gave to the Royal Society in 1863. Upon further study it was found that the Archaeopteryx fossil, while at first looking like a bird, had many features found only in lizards (teeth, a bony tail, etc.).


Along with George Busk, Falconer nominated Charles Darwin for the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in November 1864. Indirectly, Falconer provided some of the first fossil evidence for Darwin’s theory of transmutation. Indeed, the previous lack of fossil evidence for species modification concerned Darwin a great deal, but he figured that transitional fossils would eventually be found and the Archaeopteryx specimen fit the bill quite nicely.

FitzRoy, Capt. Robert [1805 – 1865]

FitzRoy started his career in the British Royal Navy when he was just twelve years old. In 1826 he took the Lieutenant’s Exam and became a commissioned officer. Shortly afterwards FitzRoy was assigned to the first survey mission of H.M.S. Beagle under the command of Capt. Pringel Stokes. FitzRoy was put in command of the Beagle in August 1828 after Capt. Stokes killed himself in Tierra del Fuego, South America. In 1831 he was assigned as captain of the second surveying voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. He was elected Member of Parliament for Durham in 1841 and was the governor of New Zealand in 1843, but was dismissed in 1846. After returning to England, FitzRoy became the head of the British Meteorological Department where he was a pioneer of weather forecasting. He also pioneered the printing of a daily weather forecast in newspapers. FitzRoy was passed up for being chosen as Chief Navel Officer in the Marine Department, and in a fit of depression on April 30, 1865, he slit his throat.


Being quite keen on natural science, FitzRoy desired that an enthusiastic and well trained naturalist should accompany him on the second Beagle survey. Furthermore, he desired the naturalist to be a gentleman of high social standing who would share meals at his dinner table. Charles Darwin was suggested as the perfect man for the job and, although FitzRoy was a bit suspicious of him at first (he did not like the shape of Darwin’s nose!), the two of them got along very well. Years after the Beagle voyage their relationship came under heavy strain due to Darwin’s views on evolution.

Forbes, Edward [1815 – 1854]

Forbes was a botanist, biogeographer, and pioneer of deep sea dredging. He worked at the Geological Survey for a while and developed the theory that there once existed a huge sunken continent in the Atlantic ocean that stretched from Ireland to Portugal and out to the Azores. He used his “sunken land bridge” theory to help explain how the same species of plants and animals appeared in land masses separated by large expanses of ocean. Forbes was very much against transmutation, saying that any modifications in a species were caused by the work of god.


Charles Darwin thought a lot about how species spread to other land masses, particularly islands like the Galapagos. He also thought Forbes was incorrect about his sunken continent theory and set out to show that plants and animals could “float” their way to distant lands. Darwin experimented with plant seeds, soaking them in sea water for up to months at a time, and then planting them. To the surprise of his fellow naturalists nearly all of them germinated! He then corresponded with inhabitants of islands, asking them to examine the shoreline for any seeds or plants not native to the island. He was surprised to find that in some cases seed pods had floated thousands of miles across the ocean to the shores of distant islands. Darwin also recruited the help of British survey vessels, asking them if they ever noticed floating “land rafts” with animals on them in the middle of the ocean. It was not long before he got confirmation that such life rafts do exist.

Fox, William Darwin [1805 – 1880]

William Fox was Charles Darwin’s great uncle’s grandson. Like Darwin, Fox prepared for the clergy at Cambridge University and was also an avid beetle collector. He graduated from Cambridge in the winter of 1829 and took a parish on the Isle of Wight.


Darwin and Fox immediately became fast friends at Cambridge and they used to go out collecting insects together. Fox taught Darwin volumes about natural history, especially entomology. He also introduced Darwin to Revd. John Stevens Henslow, Professor of Botany at Cambridge.

Gould, John [1804 – 1881]

Gould was a famous British ornithologist, a writer of bird books, and an excellent nature artist. He worked for the Zoological Society in London, first as a bird stuffer, and later working his way up to more respectable jobs.


Charles Darwin gave his Galapagos Island bird specimens to Gould in January 1837. Gould very soon figured out that the various species of birds that Darwin gave him were in fact all finches (13 species, in fact), and not gross-beaks, wrens, finches and blackbirds as Darwin had thought. A few days later Gould discovered that the main variation of the finches was the shape of their beaks. At the time the discovery of this variation did not seemed very important to Darwin. A few months later Darwin recognized that the immigrants to the Galapagos Islands became modified somehow, each species being uniquely adapted to a particular island.

Grant, Robert [1793 – 1874]

Grant was trained as a doctor, but put aside a medical practice in order to study marine biology. He was a radical freethinker who was against the authority of the church and saw no divine intervention in the natural world. He tried to push forward the idea that the fossil record showed evidence of animals progressing from lower forms of life to higher forms. He was also a great admirer of Lamarck. In the middle of 1827 Grant left Edinburgh University to teach at the just opened London University.


Robert Grant became a very close friend of Charles Darwin in 1826 when Darwin was a student at Edinburgh University. They would often go out on long walks together at the Firth of Forth, and estuary outside of Edinburgh, discussing marine life and collecting specimens. On these walks Grant would fill Charles Darwin’s head with evolutionary ideas, especially those of Lamarck. When Darwin returned from the Beagle voyage in 1836 he found that Grant had become far more radical in his views against the church and the scientific elite, especially those at Cambridge. However, by now it was the scientific elite of Cambridge who were Charles Darwin’s best friends so their relationship became very strained. Grant offered to examine Darwin’s specimens of coral but Darwin turned him down, presumable because he did not want Grant’s name attached to his work.

Gray, Asa [1810 – 1888]

Gray was educated in medicine at the Fairfield College of Physicians and Surgeons, and graduated in 1831. He was a professor of natural history at Harvard from 1842-88 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1863 for his work on botany. Gray believed that evolution took place, but only under the guiding hand of god.


Gray helped Darwin with his botanical research by sending him many seed and plant varieties to experiment with. On September 5, 1857 Darwin wrote to Gray outlining of his views on transmutation along with an abstract of his upcoming work: “Natural Selection”. His book: “Origin of Species” was eventually published in 1859 as an abstract of the bigger “Natural Selection” book. Darwin sent Gray a copy of “Origins of Species” in 1859. Like many other naturalists, Gray’s main criticism of the book was that natural selection required a selector.

Haeckel, Ernst [1834 – 1919]

Haeckel was a medical doctor in Germany. He read Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 and was so taken by it that he quit his medical practice to study natural history at the University of Jena. By 1862 Haeckel had become the professor of comparative anatomy at Jena. Although he was a supporter of evolution he did not agree with Darwin that natural selection was the primary driving force behind it. Haeckel leaned more towards the Lamarckian view of evolution; that the environment itself was a direct influence on the production of new species.


He was an avid promoter in Germany of Darwin’s evolution ideas. Charles Darwin met him in October 1866 at Down house and again in October 1876. There were some communications problems at their meetings, but they got along splendidly. He was a very loud speaking gentleman and Darwin’s wife, Emma, could not stand to be in the same room with him.

Henslow, Revd. John Stevens [1796 – 1861]

John Stevens Henslow was born on 6 February 1796 at Rochester, and was the eldest of eleven children. Like Darwin, Henslow had an innate appreciation for nature and was at a very early age an avid collector of specimens. In 1814 he entered St. Johns, Cambridge, where he studied science. He graduated in 1818, and in the same year joined the Linnean Society of London. A year later Henslow was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society. He was Professor of Mineralogy 1822 – 1825 at Cambridge, and Professor of Botany 1825 – 1861. His method of teaching was quite distinct in that he took his students on field trips into the countryside, and invited them to his house for dinner where discussions on various scientific topics were more informal.

Throughout his life, Henslow took an active interest in nearly all fields of science – mainly focusing on botany, geology, mineralogy, entomology, mathematics, and chemistry. During his time at Cambridge University he expanded and remodeled the Botanical Gardens, and in a short time made them world class. Henslow became the curate of Little St. Mary’s church in Cambridge in 1825, and in 1837 he was transferred to the Rectory of Hitcham in Suffolk where he contributed greatly to the well being of the local community. While at Hitcham he took great interest in the archaeology of the local area and made numerous discoveries. Henslow engaged in many philanthropic endeavors during his life, mainly towards his parishioners. He resided in Hitcham until his death on 16 May 1861.


Rev. John Stevens Henslow had perhaps the greatest influence on Darwin’s early scientific career. While studying for the clergy at Cambridge, Darwin was introduced to Henslow by his cousin, William Darwin Fox. Soon after their first meeting Darwin began to attend Henslow’s Friday night dinner parties, soaking up the knowledge that Henslow dispensed to his students. In 1830 Henslow became his private tutor in math and theology, and invited the young Darwin to attend his botany lectures. It was not long before Henslow marked Darwin out as a young man with much potential. Henslow and Darwin often went on long walks together in which they discussed all matters of scientific inquiry.

After Darwin graduated from Cambridge he read Humboldt’s text on his South American travels. This book inspired Darwin so much that he planned to go off and explore Tenerife Island in the Canaries. Revd. Henslow encouraged the young Darwin to go on this adventure and, seeing that Darwin would benefit from a crash course in geology, he asked Adam Sedgwick teach Darwin the principles of geology.

Revd. Henslow had a profound influence on Darwin getting the job of naturalist aboard the Beagle on its round the world voyage. In the correspondence that Darwin and Henslow exchanged during the voyage, Henslow encouraged Darwin, suggesting which specimens to collect and advised him on the proper manner of preserving and shipping them. Henslow had published and read some of Darwin’s letters to him before the Cambridge Philosophical Society – this made Darwin very nervous!

Upon Darwin’s return from the Beagle Voyage, Henslow helped him get funding to publish his Zoology books (with the help of Thomas Rice, MP for Cambridge). When Darwin moved to the village of Downe, Henslow advised him on parish matters, having had much experience already at his own parish at Hitcham. Darwin and Emma named their children: Annie, George, and Leonard, after Henslow’s children

Herschel, Sir John [1792 – 1871]

Herschel was a leading British astronomer, mathematician, and physicist during the 1800’s. He was a graduate of St. John’s College at Cambridge and was a friend of George Peacock and Charles Babbage. Herschel was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1813, received the Royal Society Copley Medal in 1821 and 1847, and the Royal Society Royal Medal in 1833, 1836 and 1840. During the mid-1830’s he resided in Cape Town, South Africa, to head up the newly built British Royal Observatory.


Right before going on the his voyage around the world, Darwin read Herschel’s book titled, “Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy.” This book instilled in Darwin’s mind the notion that there were no limits to what scientific investigation could discover. Darwin wrote the section on geology for Herschel’s book: “Manual of Scientific Enquiry” (1849). Darwin was buried next to Sir John Herschel in Westminster Abbey.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton [1817 – 1911]

Hooker was the assistant surgeon aboard H.M.S. Erabus on its famous Antarctic expedition under the command of Capt. James Ross from 1839-43. In February 1845 he was invited to teach botany at Edinburgh University for the following spring term. Hooker became botanist for the Geological Survey at Charing Cross in February 1846. In late summer of 1848 Hooker went on a natural history expedition to India. He returned to England in 1851 and shortly after married Revd. Henslow’s daughter. He became assistant director at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in 1855 and was made director in 1865. Hooker arranged for Charles Lyell to be buried in Westminster Abbey in 1875.


Hooker met Charles Darwin in 1839 and soon after Darwin gave him the opportunity to examine and catalogue the plants that he brought back from Tierra del Fuego. In January 1844 Darwin told Hooker about his transmutation theory. His reaction to it was a bit guarded. He agreed that there may be change within a species but he had yet to come across a satisfactory theory of how such change took place. Shortly after this Darwin adopted Hooker as his botanical fact gathering assistant. He came to Darwin’s house in the village of Downe in December 1845 at which time Darwin picked his brains for data on plant distribution. Within a short time Hooker became a regular visitor to Down House and by February 1846 Darwin had come to greatly rely on him as a research assistant, sometimes having him stay up to a week at the house. Hooker spent a great deal of time reading over Darwin’s 1858 manuscript on transmutation, and was very helpful in giving a lot of editorial advice.

Huxley, Thomas [1825 – 1895]

Although Huxley had no formal education he was a voracious reader in his youth, pouring over text on all varieties of science and philosophy. When fifteen years old he was a doctor’s apprentice and from 1846 to 1850 Huxley was surgeon and naturalist aboard H.M.S. Rattlesnake. The research he did on marine invertebrates during this time won him high praise back in England, and in 1854 he began lecturing at the School of Mines in London. He won many awards, including the Royal, Copley and Darwin medals.


Huxley was at first an opponent of evolutionary ideas, believing that the living world had stayed pretty much the same over eons of time. Over the years his views changed and by the 1860’s he was a defender of Darwin’s theory of evolution and obtained the nickname “Darwin’s Bulldog.” Huxley did more than anyone else to advance the acceptance of evolution among scientists and the public alike. In 1863 his book, “Evidence on Man’s Place in Nature,” he set out a comprehensive review of what was known at the time about primate and human paleontology and ethnology. It was an extremely controversial book because it was the first to claim explicitly that humans had an ape-like ancestor.

Jenyns, Revd. Leonard [1800 – 1893]

Jenyns was an avid beetle collector, in fact one of the best in Cambridge during the 1830’s. He did, however, have the reputation of being a tad bit stingy with his collections. He had a parsonage in Swaffham Bulbeck, just outside Cambridge. Jenyns was one of the people offered the job of naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle, but he turned it down because he was very busy with his parish at the time.


While attending Cambridge University, Darwin became good friends with Leonard Jenyns and he often visited him at his parsonage in Swaffham Bulbeck. After Darwin could find no one else to examine the collection of fish he brought back from the Beagle voyage, he gave them to Jenyns to look over, about 137 species in all. Jenyns had the most difficult time with the fish, as he knew next to nothing about their anatomy.

Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste [1744 – 1829]

Lamarck was a French botanist and zoologist better known for his “inheritance of acquired traits” theory. In his youth Lamarck spent a few years in a Jesuit seminary followed by service in the French army. Afterwards he studied botany and in short order became an expert on the subject. He was made assistant botanist at the French Royal Botanical Gardens and remained there until 1793. Lamarck published a series of books on invertebrate zoology and of these “Philosophie Zoologique” (1809) stated his theory of evolution.

Lamarck saw evolution as a goal oriented process striving towards perfection, somewhat analogous to species climbing a ladder. One result of this view was that he did not think species could become extinct, rather, they simply evolved into a different species. For Lamarck the process of evolution was a simple one – as the environment changes species need to change how they interact with it in order to survive. As a species uses a particular structures more, that structure grows bigger (or smaller if used less). Any changes that occur in a structure are passed on to the next generation, hence the term “acquired traits.”


Darwin was influenced by Lamarck’s writings early on while studying medicine at Edinburgh University (see influence by Robert Grant). By the late 1830’s, however, Darwin did not agree with Lamarck that species evolve in an upward manner from lower to more advanced forms. By the 1840’s Darwin disagreed with nearly all of Lamarck’s theories, except for the ones regarding acquired traits.

Lyell, Sir Charles [1797 – 1875]

Lyell was one of the most renowned geologists in Britain during the 1800’s. He was educated at Exeter College at Oxford and afterwards practiced law for a short time. Over the years he became interested in natural history and soon became well versed in geology, so well in fact that he quit his law practice in 1827 to pursue geology full time. Lyell developed the method of dividing geological strata into groups: the Eocene, Miocene and Pliocene. His book, The Principles of Geology (2 vols., 1830, 1832) were somewhat controversial in England. Some of the basic principles stated in these books were: [1] that the earth is continuously in motion, [2] the earth is extremely old, and [3] that raising and falling land masses explained the earth’s geology, rather than changes in sea levels. Lyell was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1826 and elected president of the Geological Society in 1835. He was knighted in 1848 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.


During the voyage of the Beagle, Darwin read Lyell’s “Principles of Geology Vol.-1” (1830) and was very impressed by it (FitzRoy loaned him his copy). While on the Beagle voyage, Darwin used the “Principle” as a guidebook during his geological expeditions, and eventually went beyond Lyell by developing his own theories about coral reef formation. While Lyell thought coral reefs grew atop submerged volcanic craters and mountain tops, Darwin theorized that reefs actually grew on top of themselves as the ocean floor subsided. This theory was confirmed in the 1950’s. Shortly after Darwin returned to England he met Lyell in person and they became fast friends. Even though Lyell had doubts about Darwin’s theories of transmutation, he encouraged him to publish his ideas.

Malthus, Revd. Thomas [1766 – 1834]

Malthus was a famous British economist, best known for his theories on the interrelation between populations & available resources. He was curate at Albury, Surrey for a short time, then became a professor of economics and history at the college of the East India Company at Haileybury. His most popular book, “Essay on the Principle of Population” was very controversial at the time because it contradicted the notion that mankind was perfect. He also had dissenting views on the Poor Laws of the 1830’s, claiming that they would cause much suffering in the long term.


In October 1838 Darwin read his book, “Essay on the Principle of Population” which, among other things, put forward the idea that as human populations grow and resources are depleted the weak die off in a struggle for existence. Darwin theorized that the same kind of relationship may exist in the wild. In other words, what Malthus saw in economics, Darwin saw in nature. A few years later Darwin was troubled by such Malthusian ideas because his analogy seemed to favor the wealthy (those with resources) and go against the working class poor (those with hardly any resources). Darwin knew that his ideas about transmutation would never get off the ground with this affiliation.

Mivart, St. George [1827 – 1900]

Mivart was a self taught zoologist whose specialty was the anatomy of newts and monkeys. Mivart became good friends with Thomas Huxley in 1859 and soon after, with Huxley’s help, became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Mivart seems to have been a man stuck between two worlds. On the one hand his scientific background led him to accept ideas about evolution, but on the other hand his catholic upbringing led him to view mankind’s moral and ethical nature above those of other species, and therefor man must have been a special creation of god.


At first Darwin got along quite amicably with Mivart, tapping his brain for information on different varieties of newts. After “Origin of Species” was published (Nov. 1859), however, their relationship soured. In January 1871, just after “Descent of Man” was published, Mivart came out with his book, “On the Genesis of Species.” This book was essentially a tactical strike against Darwin’s theory of natural selection. It outlined several objections to Darwin’s theory, namely that: [1] the earth had not existed long enough for natural selection to bring about such a diverse number of species, [2] intermediate steps on the path toward developing new anatomical structures served no purpose and [3] he accused Darwin of using his theory of natural selection to tinker with the foundation of ethics and morals in British society. Darwin became quite upset with Mivart, not because of his objections to his theory, but because of the venomous manner in which he put forth his objections and because of his attacks on Darwin’s colleagues. The 6th edition of “Origin of Species” included lengthy answers to Mivart’s criticisms, and by the way, was the first edition of “Origin” to contain the word “Evolution.” Even after all of Mivart’s objections were answered, he still spilled out venomous attacks on Darwin. In the end Darwin and his colleagues (Huxley, Hooker, et al) ostracized him.

Murray, John [1808 – 1892]

Owner of the Murray Publishing House in London.


John Murray published all of Darwin’s books starting with “Origin of Species.”

Owen, Fanny [???? – ????]

Daughter of William Owen and along with her sister, Sarah, was a very good friend of Darwin’s sisters. While Darwin was at Edinburgh University his sisters tried to get him interested in courting Fanny. Darwin spent many a shooting season at Woodhouse (the Owen estate) and used to go riding horses into the woods with Fanny where he taught her how to shoot pheasants.


Fanny was Darwin’s girlfriend while he was at Cambridge University studying for the clergy. By March 1830 their relationship was fading away. The reason for this is not entirely clear, but evidently Darwin had developed too much of a relationship with his beetles (he had not visited her the previous Christmas, having stayed in Cambridge to hunt the little critters), and Fanny was being pursued by other more attentive suitors. Just after he passed his “little go” exam, they broke up. While Darwin was on the H.M.S. Beagle voyage Fanny married Robert Biddulph.

Owen, Richard [1804 – 1892]

Owen is perhaps best known for his work on dinosaur anatomy, in fact, he coined the word “Dinosaur.” He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1824 but did not take a degree. Instead he moved to London where he apprenticed under John Abernathy, a well known surgeon and philosopher. In 1827 he was an assistant at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons and later became the assistant curator. Owen became a professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1836, and eventually became one of the leading comparative anatomists in Britain. He was also a Superintendent of the Natural History Department of the British Museum from 1856-83.


Richard Owen was introduced to Darwin by Charles Lyell in October 1836, and examined many of Darwin’s animal and fossil specimens from the Beagle voyage. While examining Darwin’s fossil collection he discovered that each one was a distinct species native to South America, and not related to similar European fossil species. He wrote “Fossil Mammalia” as a part of Darwin’s Zoology series. Owen was very impressed by Darwin’s “Origin of Species”, but had grave doubts about transmutation. Publicly, Owen came out against the Origin, attacking it for not acknowledging that new species can come into being spontaneously from former species. He also did not understand how natural selection can work without a selector

Peacock, George [1791 – 1858]

Peacock studied mathematics at Cambridge University and as an undergraduate he was friends with fellow students John Herschel and Charles Babbage. He graduated in 1812, placing second to John Herschel in the final exams. During the 1830’s Peacock was a mathematics tutor at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later became a Professor of Mathematics there.


In August 1831 Peacock was a vital link in a chain of events that led to Charles Darwin being made naturalist onboard H.M.S. Beagle. While Capt. Robert FitzRoy was preparing the Beagle for it’s second survey mission he was eager to have a “gentleman naturalist” on the ship. He wrote to Capt. Beaufort of the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty requesting his advice on selecting a naturalist for the voyage. Capt. Beaufort asked a friend for advice who happened to be a maths tutor at Cambridge named, you guessed it, George Peacock. Now it turns out that Peacock turned to his good friend Revd. John Stevens Henslow for advice on a suitable naturalist and it was he who suggested Charles Darwin for the job.

Sedgwick, Adam [1785 – 1873]

Sedgwick was the Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge University and was one of the most renowned geologist in all of England. Sedgwick proposed an additional geological period to the ones Lyell created, calling it the Cambrian layer and along with geologist Roderick Murchison, proposed yet another geological period called the Devonian. In 1829 he became the President of the Geological Society of London. He was against any theories of species change, especially those of Lamarck. Sedgwick thought the influence of such theories would tear apart the moral fabric of society and spell the collapse of civilization. For Sedgwick, any changes that took place in a species were due to an act of god.


Sedgwick was introduced to Darwin by his old friend, Revd. John Stevens Henslow. It was Henslow who suggested to Sedgwick that he ought to take Darwin under his wing and teach him geology. This took place when Darwin was planing his Tenerife, Canary Island expedition. During spring term 1831 Darwin attended many of Sedgwick’s geology lectures and found them most enjoyable. During the summer of 1831 Sedgwick and Darwin went on a geological tour of North Wales where he gave Darwin a crash course on field geology. Sedgwick was upset and disappointed by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. What he objected to was the apparent amoral and materialist nature of Darwin’s proposed mechanism, natural selection, which he thought degrading to humanity’s spiritual aspirations. Sedgwick believed in the divine creation of life over long periods of time

Spencer, Herbert [1820 – 1903]

Spencer was self-taught in the natural sciences. He had a brief stint during the late 1830’s as a railroad engineer and was an editor for “The Economist” in the late 1840’s. He wrote a series of books called the “Principles” which covered such topics as biology, morality, psychology and sociology. Spencer was a long time believer in evolution, and firm believer in the notion that progress through specialization was a natural law. He was also a adherent to the principles outlined by Malthus.


One of his books in the Principles series was, “Principles of Biology.” It was in this book that he coined the phrase, “Survival of the Fittest” which quickly became a substitute for Darwin’s phrase, “Natural Selection.” Spencer was a proponent of social Darwinism, that is, the application of Darwin’s theory to society as a whole.

Spottiswoode, William [1825 – 1883]

Spottiswoode was educated as a mathematician. He attended Balliol College at Oxford in 1842. By 1846 he was working in his father’s printing firm, Eyre and Spottiswoode – the Queen’s printers. After his father’s death in 1846 he was put in charge of the firm. In 1853 Spottiswoode was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and was elected president of the Society in 1878.


It was Spottiswoode who was partially responsible for getting Charles Darwin buried in Westminster Abbey. Under Francis Galton’s advice, he asked the Darwin family at Downe if they would allow Darwin to be buried at Westminster Abbey. Spottiswoode was one of the Pall-bearers at the funeral and was himself buried in Westminster.

Wallace, Alfred Russel [1823 – 1913]

Wallace is best known for developing his own theory of evolution which was very similar to that of Charles Darwin’s. In 1848 he and his friend, Henry Bates, set off on a natural history expedition to the Amazon Basin in South America. He headed back to England in the summer of 1852, bringing with him a vast collection of specimens for the British museums. Disaster struck, however, for on the way across the Atlantic the ship Wallace was on caught fire and all his collections were lost at sea. He was rescued, fortunately, and spent the next few years publishing two books of his travels in South America.

After saving his money for a few years Wallace set out on another expedition in 1854, this time to the Far East. He spent a great deal of time studying the plants and animals of the Malaysian islands, noting their distribution patterns and their differences with similar species in Australia. During his stay at the Malay Archipelago he started to develop a theoretical explanation to account for these differences and came up with a theory of natural selection. Wallace returned to England in April 1862. He was a prolific writer and is best known for his book, “Malay Archipelago” (1869) which he dedicated to Charles Darwin, and “Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection” (1870).


Wallace sent Darwin skins of birds from his eight years of travels in the Far East. In 1855 Wallace wrote a twenty page paper titled, “On the Law which has Regulated the Introduction of New Species” and had it published in “Annals and Magazine of Natural History”. Charles Lyell read this paper and thought much of it and tipped off Charles Darwin about it, but he was not as impressed, thinking it a bit to vague on the specifics of the theory. In 1858 Wallace wrote another paper titled, “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type” and sent a copy of it to Darwin for review. He did not agree with Wallace’s idea of natural selection as an environmental weeding out process of those not able to adapt, whereas Darwin said that competition was the weeding out process. Wallace also saw transmutation as having a goal, that is, the building toward the perfect man, he tried to mix social morality with evolution, suggesting and upward progression of morals toward a socialist utopia.

On 1 July 1858 Wallace’s paper along with parts of Darwin’s working manuscript form 1844 and an 1857 letter to Asa Gray were read before the Linnean Society in London. In early 1881 Wallace found himself on hard times, living on about £60 a year, supporting a family, and having a difficult time finding a job. He was somehow living off the meager returns from his investments and book sales. Darwin, together with Huxley, Hooker and Spottiswoode, urged Prime Minister Gladstone put forward a proposal before Parliament to provide Wallace with a pension of £200 a year, and this was granted.

Waterhouse, George [1810 – 1888]

Waterhouse was a fellow insect collector with Darwin during his Cambridge days. He was curator of the Zoological Society in 1837. Along with Frederick Hope, he founded the Entomological Society in 1833. An anti-evolutionist, he organized all animal classification into wheels with no genealogical relation between them. He was the gentleman who went to Germany to buy the Archaeopteryx fossil for the British Museum.


Waterhouse catalogued many of the animals that Darwin brought back from the Beagle voyage. Darwin helped him get a job at the British Museum after his curator job came to a sudden end. He named one of his sons after Darwin.

Wilberforce, Bishop Samuel [1805-1873]

Wilberforce was one of most prominent religious figures in England during the 19th century. He attended Oriel College at Oxford University in 1823 where he studied for the clergy. In 1828 he became an ordained clergyman and took a parish at Checkenden. During his long career Wilberforce published several books, hymns, short stories, and bible tracts. In 1840 he became the Canon of Winchester and in 1841 started lecturing at Oxford. He became the dean of Westminster in 1845 and in the same year was chosen as the Bishop of Oxford. He became the Bishop of Winchester in 1869.


Wilberforce led an attack of Robert Chamber’s book, “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” in July 1847 (see Robert Chambers for information on this book). He gave a vehement sermon at the church of St. Mary in Oxford before a packed house of scientists and clergymen alike. All in attendance agreed with him that the universe does not evolve and is not self sustaining. He felt that because Chambers was an atheist he was blind to the divine creative forces of god. Shortly before the “Origin of Species” was published (Nov. 1859) Lord Palmerston, the current Prime Minster of England, suggested to the Queen that Darwin was worthy of knighthood. However, the publication of the Origin created such a commotion that the proposal was withdrawn, partially due to the influence of Bishop Wilberforce.

Thirteen years later Wilberforce was involved in another debate on evolution. This one took place on the weekend of 30 June 1860 at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford University’s Museum Library. The paper being read that day was by Professor William Draper of New York University, and his topic was the influence of Darwinian theory on social progress. There were about 700 to 1,000 people stuffed into the room. Apparently the talk was only mildly interesting, but most of those in attendance stayed to the end because they wanted to hear Wilberforce respond to the talk, and since Huxley was there as well, a lively debate on evolution was sure to follow. More information about this debate is given in the Darwin Timeline.