Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

. He established that all species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of life have descended over time from common ancestry
Common descent
In evolutionary biology, a group of organisms share common descent if they have a common ancestor. There is strong quantitative support for the theory that all living organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor....

, and proposed the scientific theory
Scientific theory
A scientific theory comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules that express relationships between observations of such concepts...

 that this branching pattern
In biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms , which is discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices...

 of evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 resulted from a process that he called natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....


He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species
Transmutation of species
Transmutation of species was a term used by Jean Baptiste Lamarck in 1809 for his theory that described the altering of one species into another, and the term is often used to describe 19th century evolutionary ideas that preceded Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection...


There is one living spirit, prevalent over this world ... which assumes a multitude of forms according to subordinate laws. There is one thinking sensible principle allied to one kind of organic matter.

"Notebook C", as quoted in Creativity, Psychology And the History of Science (2005) by Howard E. Gruber and Katja Bödeker, p. 142

We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universe, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.

"Notebook N" (1838), as quoted in Darwin's Religious Odyssey (2002) by William E. Phipps, p. 32

Our faculties are more fitted to recognize the wonderful structure of a beetle than a Universe.

"Notebook N" (1838) as quoted in On Evolution : The Development of the Theory of Natural Selection (1996) edited by Thomas F. Glick and David Kohn, p. 81

I feel most deeply that this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton! Let each man hope and believe what he can.

London Illustrated News (21 April 1862)

Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity.

Letter to E. Ray Lankester, as quoted in "Charles Robert Darwin" by E. Ray Lankester in Library of the World's Best Literature : Ancient and Modern (1902) edited by Charles Dudley Warner, p. 4391

I love fools' experiments. I am always making them.

As quoted in "Charles Robert Darwin" by E. Ray Lankester in Library of the World's Best Literature : Ancient and Modern (1902) edited by Charles Dudley Warner, p. 4391