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Charles Darwin was born in the town of Shrewsbury, England on February 12, 1809. Since he was a child, Charles Darwin enjoyed an easygoing life - taking walks, collecting beetles, and playing with his dogs.

When Charles was 16, His father, Dr. Darwin, sent Charles to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to study medicine. A professor, John Steven Henslow, head of the botany department at the University, was impressed by Darwin's beetle collection. It was through Henslow that Darwin met Captain Robert Fitzroy of the Royal Navy. Fitzroy was looking for a young naturalist to be his companion, aboard H.M.S. Beagle on a five-year voyage around the world. As the ship's naturalist, he was known as "Mr. Flycatcher" by the crew. This journey changed his life and led him to develop one of the most important theories of modern scientific thought.

On September 15, 1835, almost four years after the Beagle had sailed from England, the ship arrived in the remote Galápagos Islands. On these islands, which are located on the equator some 600 miles west into the Pacific from South America, reptiles are the main inhabitants. Darwin even rode a 300-pound turtle, the size of which had never been seen before. He also discovered 13 varieties of finch, each with beaks of a different size and shape. Darwin concluded that the finches descended from one variety of South American finch that had flown across the ocean to the islands in prehistoric times. The finches had then evolved in different ways in order to survive. He called this process "natural selection" or "the survival of the fittest." He had discovered a key to evolution and how different kinds of animals and plants came into existence.

From the Galápagos Islands, the Beagle sailed across the Pacific to Tahiti. After a brief stop there, the ship then sailed on to New Zealand, Australia, the Keeling Islands, around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, and to Brazil again. Finally, its missions completed, the Beagle sailed home. As the ship touched the shores of England on October 2, 1836, the ship's naturalist had arrived home at the age of 27, and still without a profession.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection still holds its place as one of the greatest discoveries of modern science. His theory is accepted by practically all scientists, but it is regarded as only one of the many factors of evolution. He was able to prove that species do evolve and change, but this kind of information has led to an even bigger mystery. The debate still continues about what really causes evolutionary changes. Scientists in their quest for knowledge about the creation of our world and the universe continue to ask how species evolve. Darwin's theories were published in 1859 in his famous book The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin died on April 19, 1882.

SOURCE: Sahlman, Rachel. "Charles Darwin." SPECTRUM Home & School Magazine. (8/18/2012). © K. B. Shaw