Today, we know Charles Darwin for developing the theory of evolution through natural selection. We know him for having put these brilliant thoughts to paper, thoughts that were in direct contradiction to the popular belief of creationism. However, what you may not know is that Darwin’s beginnings were not unlike that of many students, filled with doubt about his planned career and confusion about his future.
Darwin was not intended to be the naturalist we all know he became. He descended from a line of doctors who expected him to follow in their footsteps. However, Darwin struggled in his medical courses and found the practical aspect to be upsetting. During his second year of medical school, he joined the Plinian Society, a student group focused on exploring natural history and challenging orthodox scientific concepts. This is where Darwin discovered his passion. Though disappointed, Darwin’s father allowed him to leave medical school and pursue a bachelor’s degree. And though Darwin preferred to gallivant about the woods rather than study, he soon buckled down and completed his degree, finishing tenth in his class.
Soon after his graduation the opportunity arose to join the HMS Beagle two-year expedition to chart the South American coastline. Darwin’s father adamantly objected to this trip, considering it a waste of time. However, in the end he relented, and even agreed to fund Darwin’s travel expenses. The HMS Beagle set sail in late 1831. Darwin’s experiences with new species (the infamous Galapagos finches for example) and unique geological formations sparked his rethinking of the natural world and how it came to be. Darwin would spend the next twenty-five years pouring over his notes from this expedition, conducting extensive research to solidify his theories, and addressing every possible counterargument. Despite his reservations and concern over the controversy, Darwin gathered his evidence and put it to paper.
On the Origin of Species wouldn’t actually hit the bookshelves until 1859, but from there it would rather quickly revolutionize the way scientists looked at and studied the natural world. Darwin’s theory of evolution has influenced every sphere of scientific inquiry, and is still doing so today. For example, the very existence of a new flu vaccine each year is predicated on our understanding of evolution. In one way or another, Charles Darwin has impacted every human life on this planet; however, let us not forget that even the great Charles Darwin started out as nothing more than a confused kid who liked to defy his father.