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Home > Biographies de Scientifiques > Botanistes, zoologistes et agronomes > Charles-Robert Darwin (1809-1884)

Charles-Robert Darwin (1809-1884)

La Nature N°467 — 13 mai 1882

Mis en ligne by Denis Blaizot le Sunday 31 August 2014

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Ch. Darwin death recently lost to science, is unquestionably one of the most remarkable naturalist of our century, and one of the greatest philosophers that ever lived. Son of Dr. R.W. Darwin, son of the famous Erasmus Darwin, he was born in Shrewsbury, in 1809 The future author of The Origin of Species, educated at the primary school in his hometown, was later studied the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge

In 1831, when Admiral Fitzroy was preparing for the great expedition that was to perform around the world, he offered to give hospitality to his cabin to a naturalist who would accompany him. Young Darwin presented himself without asking for any compensation, but the condition of having free and disposal of collections that may collect on the way. Darwin later disposed in favor of several scientific institutions of true riches he collected and which offered an incomparable value. Ch. Darwin, during the long cruise, showed a willingness and perseverance foolproof; he did not cease to be afflicted with seasickness, but the pain did not make him lose sight of the importance of his mission. He ran and Brazil, visited the Strait of Magellan, the west coasts of South America, the islands of the Pacific, and after a voyage of five years, he returned to England. Never exploration was no longer profitable to science; offline publications such as the Journal of Geological and Natural research in various countries, the constitution and distribution of coral reefs, and the history of zoological expedition were the result, and gave far as talent for observation the new naturalist who proved the scientific world. This early work was followed by other works, among which we mention the description volcanic islands visited during the trip, the geographical observations in South America, and a memorandum on the formation of topsoil, the great observer must complete by amazing research he later published, as it were the day before his death.

In 1839, Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgwood, granddaughter of the famous inventor of modern pottery. In 1842, he moved to Down, near Beckenham, Kent, where he was to reside until his death. The existence of the great thinker was always happy and peaceful; outside his family duties, he devoted himself entirely with incomparable power of work, scientific research and meditations of intelligence. It, go back to Newton, to find such a vast engineering. that has informed the natural light of a brilliant philosophy.

The Origin of Species, published in 1859, produced a revolution, and raised shouts of protestation.Mais following years it became to new ideas, which often express the reality of the facts, and the philosopher who first met so many enemies, was hardly the end of his life as followers and admirers. Besides adding to the glory of our national genius, which Darwin had to master and our great precursor Lamarck. It is in the Zoological Philosophy, in this book “so far no model”, in the words of Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, the English naturalist found the first foundations of transformation or modified descendants. Lamarck, in fact, asserts for the first time and with complete assurance, that animals and plants today have not appeared on earth as they exist today, but are derived from other animals and other plants, for successive and continuous changes.

It is on this theory that Darwin had to build the monument of transformation, bringing countless material facts observed with prodigious safety glance, while the cementing by powerful designs. We will not reproduce here the principles of the philosophy of Darwin, all of our readers know the doctrine of the variability of species, evidenced by the struggle for existence and natural selection. The conclusion of the work of the great naturalist, can be formulated as follows: “All former and current species, including humans, descended through a gradual and successive transformations of one or several types of primitive extreme simplicity.”

The opinion of the supporters of Darwin is summarized by this appreciation of a distinguished convinced disciple of the famous English naturalist philosopher: “The study of our useless organs, the monstrosities, the history of the succession of beings throughout the immense series of geologic time, from the dawn of life to the present day, the history of the beginnings of mankind, the study of the moral as well as physical man, all confirm genealogical doctrine founded by our illustrious Lamarck and developed by the genius of Darwin.”

Some other scholars, however, while acknowledging that the doctrine of Darwin is unassailable on several issues, especially regarding the struggle for existence and natural selection, report facts in favor of his opponents. Darwin, say these, nothing is known about the appearance of the primitive archetypal ancestor of all organic beings, and it does not explain how he met so many gaps in the scale of being.

Anyway, the point of departure of the Darwinian doctrine is patient and careful observation of the phenomena of variation in domestic animals or crops, and the continuous observation of nature led Darwin to write many books that made his scientific fame. We mention especially: From Fertilization of Orchids by Insects, and successful crossovers - the Descent of Man and Sexual Selection - Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals - insectivorous plants - Movements and habits of climbing plants - Effects of cross and self-fertilization in the vegetable kingdom, and finally the formation of plant Earth worms, which we will publish shortly an analysis. These various books have been translated into all the languages ​​of Europe, and even those who do not share all the views of the author do not refuse him an exceptional talent observer and a rare genius for investigation.

Ch. Darwin was not only an offline scholar, a profound philosopher, a distinguished writer, he had good judgment, and professed a great love of the truth. When early in his career, he heard his country indignant protests of bigotry exaggerated, he was disturbed in any way; he continued his work patiently with the belief that accumulating evidence, the clamor would be stifled. Darwin was not mistaken.

At his death, no one came forward to protest against the great thinker. His funeral was made ​​with the utmost solemnity, it led his mortal remains in Westminster Abbey in London, and all that England has illustrious men paid tribute to his memory.

Charles Darwin’s coffin was placed in front of the tomb of Isaac Newton.