A Gentleman Naturalist – Charles Darwin

Day 42 of Colourisation Project – June 18

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

On this day, 18th June in 1859, Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in his book On the Origin of Species. Despite compelling evidence presented in his book, it is arguably the most controversial book of the 19th century. If ever a scientific theory caused massive debate and controversy, Darwin’s theory of evolution takes the prize.

 Charles Darwin

Photo by Maull and Polyblank – Charles Darwin c1855 – Colourised by Loredana Crupi

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist, biologist and geologist, who transformed the way we think about the natural world.  His studies and observations of specimens made during a five year voyage (1831 – 1836) around the world on the HMS Beagle, formed the nucleus from which he developed his theory of evolution. In 1839 his journal The Voyage of the Beagle was released. Not only was it an exciting travel memoir, it was also a detailed scientific field journal which garnered him popular support as an author.

However at a time when most Europeans believed that the world was created by God in seven days, Darwin faced resistance from all quarters of the scientific and non-scientific world regarding the concept of transmutation of the species because the logical extension of his theory was that homo sapiens descended from the animal world and quite possibly from apes.  Turning his back on the prevailing orthodoxy did not go down well with the Church and followers of creationism.

It was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution.

Darwin didn’t rest on his laurels. He also published several other groundbreaking books. In 1871 The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals were released. Later in 1880 The Power of Movement in Plants, and in 1881 The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms were published.

Any wonder Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history. It has been said that in 1862 Darwin grew a long unkempt white-grey beard to prevent people from recognising him. His plan worked for a while. However that beard made him possibly one of the most widely recognizable faces of the nineteenth century.

Today’s photo shows and early portrait of Charles Darwin minus his iconic beard.

Charles Darwin died at home in London on April 19, 1882 at the age of 73. He was given a state funeral and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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“If I really have as bad an expression, as my photograph gives me, how I can have one single friend is surprising.”  Charles Darwin reflecting on today’s photograph.

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