Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, biologist, and geologist who proposed and provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. Darwin published his theory in the book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, which met with significant controversy at the time.
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, into a wealthy and well-connected family. He studied medicine and theology at the University of Edinburgh and Christ's College in Cambridge.
During a five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle, a Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, in 1831–1836, Darwin collected specimens of flora and fauna from around the world, which led him to develop his theory of evolution.
His five-year voyage established him as a geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and the publication of his journal made him famous as a popular author.
The scientific community and the general public accepted evolution during his lifetime. His theory of natural selection became widely regarded as the explanation for evolution in the 1930s and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. In a modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery remains the foundation of biology because it provides a unifying logical explanation for the diversity of life.
Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838.
Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting the immediate joint publication of both of their theories.
His book, On the Origin of Species, established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation for diversification. He examined human development and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).
His research on plants was published in a series of books, and his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
In recognition of Darwin’s pre-eminence, he was one of only five 19th-century UK non-royal personages to be honored by a state funeral. Charles Darwin was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton.