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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

Portrait of Charles Darwin
Portrait of Charles Darwin. American Museum of Natural History, Elliot & Fry.

Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist who realised and demonstrated that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through a process he called 'natural selection'.

Darwin's ideas were published in his seminal work On the Origin of Species (first published 24 November 1859).

Origin is arguably the pivotal work in evolutionary biology and was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and expanded through continuing investigations and experiments after his return to England.

During his lifetime the scientific community accepted that evolution occurs. By the 1930s Darwin's theory of natural selection had become widely accepted as the primary explanation of the process of evolution and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory.

In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery remains the foundation of biology, as it provides a unifying logical explanation for the diversity of life.

Darwin's theories have also been applied to human society, business and economics and have been used to justify colonialism, racist ideologies and social philosophies such as eugenics. Educationalists and others continue to debate the teaching of evolution, creationism and intelligent design in the context of the development of the national curriculum for the sciences.

Darwin is based on an exhibition organised by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org) in collaboration with the Museum of Science, Boston; The Field Museum, Chicago; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; and the Natural History Museum, London.

Presented in conjunction with Art Exhibitions Australia.

The concurrent Darwin and Australia exhibition looks at Darwin's experiences during his short but important visit to Australia in early 1836. It also explores the links Darwin maintained with Australia after his visit.