Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the famous scientist and naturalist who explored the world aboard the HMS Beagle and developed the theory of evolution, a scientific model that went against practically ever belief at the time.
Darwin was an explorer who undertook an epic journey when he set sail on his second expedition with the Beagle. He and the crew were expected to be gone for two years, but were instead gone for five. The ship set out from Plymouth Sound in late December of 1831, and over the course of the next few years, would circumnavigate the globe visiting the Canary Islands and Cape Verde of the African coast before crossing the Atlantic and navigating south along the coastline of South America. Rounding Cape Horn, the Beagle sailed back north before skirting across open waters to visit the Galapagos Islands, which became famous for launching the ideas of Natural Selection, which became a cornerstone for the Theory of Evolution.
From there, the ship sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Tahiti, then on to New Zealand and Australia, before braving the Indian Ocean to reach Mauritius. Darwin and the crew then proceeded down the eastern coast of Africa, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, to St. Helena and Ascension Isle, before once again crossing the Atlantic Ocean, returning to South America briefly before turning their sites on England and home, stopping at St. Michael’s Island along the way.
After the journey was complete, Darwin published his book The Voyage of the Beagle, which became a huge success at the time, earning him fame and respect around the globe. He would later go on to write extensively on his Theory of Evolution as well, that would continue to earn him accolades in scientific circles, but much criticism from the church and the general populace.
Whether you believe in the Theory of Evolution or not (and studies show that most Americans in particular do not), you have to respect Darwin as an explorer and adventurer. Five years traveling the planet in an era that when it was much more unexplored and wild than it is now, is an impressive feat. His tales of far off places and scientific studies of those places set the tone for many explorers to follow, while his theories on Natural Selection and Evolution would break new ground in the area of science for decades to follow.
Darwin is one of the most important men in history in my opinion, and on the occasion of his 200th birthday, I salute the man and his legacy.
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