RECORD: Anon. 1882. [Obituary of Darwin]. The Morning Advertiser (21 April).

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (single key) by AEL Data 11.2011. RN1.

NOTE: The text is partly obscured by an overlying page.


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Mr. Charles Robert Darwin, M.A., F.R.S., died on Wednesday at his residence, Down House Down, Kent. He had been ailing for some days, but was supposed to be recovering, when on Tuesday night he had a relapse. Mr. Darwin was in his seventy-fourth year, having been born on February 12,1809.

The death of our greatest naturalist, at the age of 74, can hardly be called untimely; but it was, so far as the public is concerned, wholly unexpected. Mr. DARWIN had taken a useful and by no means undistinguished part in scientific work as early as 1831, when he was but in his 23rd year; but his very earnestness and diligence, coupled with the greatness of the task on which he was engaged, withdrew his name from popular attention after his well-known "Voyage Round the world." When, in 1859, he startled the orthodoxy of science no less than of divinity by the publication of his preliminary treatise "On the Origin of Species," he had already passed prime even of scientific or literary life; but he first became known to the reading world at large and therefore seemed to the present generation belong to our own age rather than that of our fathers. The character of the work—incomplete and prefatory as it avowedly was—explains the silence of so many preceding years, and why not long afterwards, the full scheme of doctrine of evolution, together with the nature of evidence on which it was founded, was laid before the public, not of England or even of Europe, but of the whole educated world, the contents of two solid volumes giving proof that the work of half a lifetime had been bestowed upon his task. In caution and moderation of statement, as in fearless audacity of speculation; in minute and patient research as in width and depth of view; in experimentation in the collection of evidence already furnished by nature; in accuracy of detail, as in completeness and consistency of generalisation, the author of "The Origin of Species" showed himself worthy of the position in which that work and its mediate successor instantly placed him, as an unquestioned chief of living physicists.

Whatever may be our view of the elaborate deductions drawn by others form DARWIN'S premisses, whatever the limits prudence would be to our acquiescence even in his own boldest conclusions, no one can deny that his volume brought about a vast and sudden revolution in the department of science with which they immediately dealt, and have affected to an unprecedented extent not only the conclusions but the very methods and principles of science in general.

History, archæology, even political philosophy as well as palæontology, geology, and cosmogony have learnt to apply his views and adapt his reasonings; the foremost thinkers of every advancing school look up to him as a model and a master not only the younger men rising into eminence of every branch of science, but such masters as HUXLEY, TYNDALL, and even SPENCER, are proud to own themselves his disciples. WALLACE, who had grasped the idea of evolution almost as early— indicated it in print, we believe, even earlier, and had traced its evidences in person over a far wider field—willingly recognized its true author in man who worked it out with such admirable completeness and almost unexampled cogency, who gathered every scrap of proof together and assigned each fact its place in the general scheme, and who settled by practical experiments in more than any branch of physics the fundamental question, whether such modifications of species as the theory required were were not within the resources of nature directed by human intelligence. Since NEWTON, perhaps no one man has influenced at once the program of science, and the general course of human thought, so largely and deeply as CHARLES DARWIN. No man has more resemblance to NEWTON in patient, vigilant inquiry, in the power of waiting, so necessary to and so rare among scientific men, in capacity to see and readiness to point out the weakness as well as the strength of his case, in conscientious accuracy, in imperturbable dignity and suavity of temper or in clearness and force at once of statement and of argument. No death could well leave a greater void in the intellectual republic of which he was the foremost citizen; no chief of a new school could die more universally respected and regretted. His doctrine had many and bitter enemies; but not one was made or embittered by the tone or conduct of the teacher, and never would the author of views so startling and so unsettling maintain them for twenty years in a manner so absolutely void of offence to his fellow-man.

 


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

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