RECORD: Anon. 1882. [Obituary of Charles Darwin, with portrait]. Leader (Melbourne), (29 April): 5.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 8.2022. RN1

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[page] 5

THE LATE CHARLES DARWIN.

A telegram in Saturday's papers announced the death of Charles Darwin, the distinguished naturalist, whose name has been for a generation past, and will be for all future ages, associated with the theory of the origin of species by natural selection — a theory which may fairly be said to have effected a complete revolution throughout the thinking world. Before the publication of Darwin's great work on the origin of species men thought that each existing species was due to a special creation; but Darwin taught us to look to the innumerable variations continually being exhibited in the forms of living creatures, under the thousand modifying influences at work in the universe, and to trace in these slight variations — so slight most of them as to be almost imperceptible — the true cause by which the great diversity in species, from the simplest to the most complicated organisms, from the worm to man, has been effected. Darwin's theory, as applied to animal life, was not altogether new, perhaps; for in France Lamarck and in England Darwin's own grandfather had broached ideas nearly approaching to it. But to Darwin belongs truly the honor of having seized upon the hints of his predecessors only to so mature them by the discovery of clearer and more reasonable principles, and at the same time to sustain what was original in his own views by such a prodigious array of illustrative facts, that he has been universally and ungrudgingly recognised as the real author of the theory which goes by his name. The hostility with which Darwinism was at one time regarded, especially in clerical circles, was only what is always to be expected whenever the world is blessed by the appearance of a thinker who enlarges the boundaries of knowledge. He was charged with attacking the Bible, with undermining faith in the existence of God, and with all sorts of impieties; but he really made no attack upon religion or the Bible, he did not set aside the Deity, he did not touch upon the origin of life. His clerical opponents raised their outcry before they were hurt. Now that they have had time to get over their frenzy and their fears, many of them, like the late Charles Kingsley, acknowledge the compatibility of Darwinism with a firm faith in a creative and governing will. These few remarks on Darwin's scientific position and influence upon modern thought may serve to introduce the following particulars of his life and labors: —

Charles Robert Darwin was born at Shrewsbury, 12th February, 1809. He came of two families which were famous in the scientific and industrial history of England, and furnishes in his own person one of the most conspicuous examples of hereditary genius. His paternal grandfather was Dr. Erasmus Darwin, a Lichfield physician, who was celebrated in his own time (the latter years of the last century) as the author of several philosophical poems, The Botanic Garden, Zoonomia, &c, which the taste of the present age rejects, but who is now considered more remarkable for having vaguely anticipated some of the scientific theories of our time Mr. Darwin's father was Dr. Robert Waring Darwin, F.R.S., also a physician, who married a daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the founder of the English pottery industry. He was educated at the Shrewsbury Grammar School, was two years at the University of Edinburgh, and afterwards entered Christ's College, Cambridge, where he graduated as B.A. in 1832 and M.A. in 1837. Mr. Darwin's scientific aptitude led Captain Fitzroy and the Lords of the Admiralty to choose him as naturalist to H.M.S Beagle, which was despatched on a scientific and surveying expedition round the globe. The Beagle sailed 27th December, 1831, on what may be pronounced from its indirect results one of the most memorable voyages on record. Mr. Darwin, who acted as naturalist without salary, even partly paying his own expenses, was allowed the entire disposal of the scientific collections made during the voyage, which lasted for nearly five years. Besides resulting in a charming and popular account of his researches, and several important works on the structure) and distribution of coral reefs and other subjects chiefly geological, it was during this voyage that Mr. Darwin was led to speculate on the great question to which he devoted the rest of his life. After many years' profound meditation, he published in 1859 his immortal work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, which went through many editions, was translated into every European language, and gave rise to a controversy which has lasted ever since. Mr. Darwin's subsequent works have been more or less devoted to the establishment of his famous theory. The one entitled the Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, in which he applied the development theory, to the human race. His other chief works are — The Fertilisation of Orchids, Domesticated Animals and Plants, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, Insectivorous Plants, &c. Only a few months ago he published a work on The Formation of Vegetable Mould by Earth Worms, which showed all his old powers of observation and generalisation, and the same clearness: Or style and arrangement which has characterised all his writings. It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Darwin received almost every honor that science could bestow. He received from the University of Cambridge the honorary degree of LL.D., and that of M.D. from the University of Leydon. The Royal Society voted him their royal medal in 1853, and the Copley medal in 1864. He was created knight of the order Pour le Mérité by the Prussian Government. A number of attempts were made to have him elected a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences for the section of zoology, but the Conservative feelings of the French biologists opposed his election for several years in spite of his overwhelming claims to the honor, and it was not till August, 1875, that he was elected. In 1831 Mr. Darwin married his cousin, Miss Emma Wedgwood, by whom he has left a large family. Several of his sons have already shown the hereditary talent for science, and have assisted him in his late researches. One son, Mr. George Howard Darwin, already ranks among the foremost mathematicians of the day. Mr. Darwin worked hard to the last, and as we have had no intelligence of his being ill it may be presumed that his death was sudden and unexpected. He was 73 years of age.


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

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