Charles Darwin why is he important | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Charles Darwin why is he important

History 101: Evolution Before Charles Darwin

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin, was an English physician, poet, inventor, and natural philosopher. He attended St. John’s College, Cambridge and received his medical education at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He spent fifty years as a successful physician in the Midlands (this is an area of central England that roughly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia.)

Physically, Erasmus Darwin (shown above) might be described as a big man: he stopped weighing himself when he reached 336 pounds. He was married twice and had 14 children.

During a seven-year time period, Darwin translated the works of the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus from Latin into English. In doing this, Darwin coined many of the English names for plants that are still being used today.

His most important scientific work was Zoonomia, which incorporated some early ideas regarding evolution. Like Linnaeus and other natural philosophers, he noted the great similarity in structure among warm-blooded animals and the changes they went through. He wrote:

“Would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE embued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!” He went further by writing:
“Shall we then say that the vegetable living filament was originally different from that of each tribe of animals above described? And that the productive living filament of each of those tribes was different originally from the other? Or, as the earth and ocean were probably peopled with vegetable productions long before the existence of animals...shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filament is and has been the cause of all organic life?” In 1803, his final long poem, The Temple of Nature, was published posthumously. This is not only considered his best poetic work, but it centers on his concept of evolution.
Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing. Darwin also speculated on the cosmological theories of the Big Bang and the Big Crunch in his poetry.

Darwin was also a life-long friend with the American scientist Benjamin Franklin.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck:

In 1800, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck (1744-1829) declared that the fixity of species was an illusion. He proposed that species had not all been created in their current form at the dawn of time. New species, he postulated, had formed through spontaneous generation. As species evolved they achieved higher and higher levels of complexity. Carl Zimmer, in his book Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, describes it this way:

“The continual emergence of species and their ongoing transformation created the Great Chain of Being: lower members of the chain had simply started their upward journey later than high members.” According to Larmarck, as a species adapted to its environment, it passed these adaptations on to its offspring. With regard to humans, Zimmer reports:
“Lamarck suggested that humans might have descended from apes that left the trees, stood upright, and walked out onto the plains. The very effort of trying to walk on two legs would have gradually changed their bodies to our own posture.” In 1809, Lamarck outlined his theory of evolution in Philosophie zoologique ou exposition des considérations relatives à l'histoire naturelle des animaux (Zoological Philosophy: Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals). His proposed theory of evolution is now known as Lamarckism. Lamarck proposed that species could acquire new characteristics from influences in their environment:
"as new modifications will necessarily continue to operate, however slowly, not only will there continually be found new species, new genera, and new orders, but each species will vary in some part of its structure and form ... individuals which from special causes are transported into very different situations from those where the others occur, and then constantly submitted to other influences - the former, I say, assume new forms, and then they constitute a new species." In other words, an organism can pass on characteristics that it had acquired to its offspring.



Cambridge University Press Charles Darwin in Australia
Book (Cambridge University Press)

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