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Charles Robert Darwin

1809-1882. English naturalist. Graduate of Christ College, Cambridge (1831), his theory of evolution* was formulated during a five-year voyage around South America. In 1837 he “opened his first notebook on the Transmutation of Species,” but he hesitated until 1859 before publishing his Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Lifelong vacillation between agnosticism and faith was accompanied by psychosomatic pains. Originally intending to become a clergyman, by 1850 he declared himself agnostic. Hesitation continued until A.R. Wallace's MS of a similar theory expedited Darwin's Origins.

In 1857 at the Oxford meeting of the British Association, T.H. Huxley as “Darwin's Bulldog” attacked Bishop Samuel Wilberforce,* whose ridicule and lack of science was an open target for Huxley. Thus evolution and religion were set at variance, counteracting the accepted Bridgewater Treatises, by renowned scientists on The Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as Manifested in the Creation. Fears that the new theory would brutalize humanity were not unfounded. Herbert Spencer opposed the betterment of the unfortunate because it might hinder selection by survival of the fittest. Marx, Nietzsche, and Hitler justified war on the same grounds. Darwin's inner conflict continued into old age, according to the Duke of Argyle unrelieved by his wife's prayers and Bible reading. Some credence is given to his nurse's record, however, that the epistle to the Hebrews brought him final consolation. He was buried in 1882 in Westminster Abbey, a few feet from Isaac Newton. Darwin's other works included Descent of Man (1871), Different Forms of Flowers (1877), and a theory of reef formation (1842).