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Father of Modern Biology: Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin's whole life was changed by one lucky chance. In 1831, before he went on the voyage1 of the Beagle2, he was a very ordinary young man of twenty-two. No one in England—certainly not Darwin himself —had any idea of the future he had before him.
His sister Caroline gave him his first lessons. He was both lazy and naughty, and everyone was glad that he went away to school after his mother's death when he was eight.
Charles soon became a keen collector. He collected anything that caught his interest: insects3, seashells, coins and interesting stones. He said later that his collection prepared him for his work as a naturalist4.
He was not a very clever boy, but Charles was good at doing the things that interested him. He also took pleasure in carrying out experiments. But he could not learn Latin and Greek which in those days were an important part of education. He was a disappointment to his father, who was sure that he would bring nothing but shame to himself and his family.
In 1825, when Charles was sixteen, his father sent him to Edinburgh to study medicine, saying ：“As you like natural history5 so much, perhaps we can make a doctor of you.”
But Charles found the lectures boring, and the dissections6 frightening. But at Edinburgh he was able to go to natural history lectures. In 1826 he read a paper on sea-worms to the Natural History Society. This paper was his first known work on this subject.
Then his father decided to send Charles to Cambridge University to study to become a priest. With hard work, he did quite well. And, in the countryside around Cambridge, he was able to shoot, fish and collect insects.
He seemed likely to become a country priest like hundreds of others, sharing his time between his work and his interest in natural history and country life. He had a deep faith in God and a lasting interest in religion7. At this time he did not doubt that every word of the Bible was true.
Then a letter from Captain Robert FitzRoy changed his life. FitzRoy was planning to make a voyage around the world on a ship called the Beagle. He wanted a naturalist to join the ship, and Darwin was recommended8. That voyage was the start of Charles Darwin's great life work.
In those days a great many people believed that every word written in the Bible was true. Darwin hoped that the plants and animals that they found in the course of their voyage would prove the truth of the Bible story of the great Flood9.
He began to observe everything. When they got to Rio de Janeiro in South America, Charles was overcome with joy to see so many different creatures, so much life and colour. His notebooks were full of detailed observations.
Then they reached dry land at Punta Alta. There Darwin discovered his first fossils10. Why, he wondered, were there horse bones at Punta Alta, when there had been no horses in the New World until Cortez brought his from Spain11?
They came to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. It was a strange place, with terrible storms. Its people grew no food, and they slept on the wet ground. Darwin observed their looks and habits.
“How can people be so different, if all are descended12 from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?” Charles wondered.
A trip into the mountains showed Darwin seashells at a height of 12,000 feet. Lower down were fossil trees.
“So those trees once stood by the sea,” thought Darwin. “The sea came up and covered them. Then the sea-bed rose up...”. To a man who had been taught that every word in the Bible was true, this was very puzzling.
In Chile, where Darwin saw earthquakes and volcanoes, he began to see what must have happened. The centre of the earth, he decided, was very hot. The surface of the earth was thinner in some places. It was in these places that earthquakes and volcanoes developed.
As the Beagle sailed around the world, Darwin began to wonder how life had developed on earth. He saw volcanic islands in the sea, and wondered how living things had got there.
But people who believed every word of the Bible thought that God had made all creatures and Man. But, if that was true, why did some of the fossils look like “mistakes” which had failed to change and, for that reason, died out?
On went Beagle, to Tahiti13, New Zealand and Australia. There, Darwin saw coral and coral islands for the first time. How had these islands come about14? Soon, he had the answer. Coral was made up of the bodies of millions of tiny creatures, piled up over millions of years —a million years for each island. Darwin wrote it all down in his notebooks.
After five years he was home. He was never again the healthy young man who climbed mountains and carried heavy bags of fossils for miles.
He set to work, getting his collection in order. And, in 1839, he married his cousin15, Emma Wedgwood. It was a happy marriage with ten children. He could be found working in his study, with a child beside him.
His first great work The Zoology of the Beagle was well received, but he was slow to make public his ideas on the origins16 of life. He was certainly very worried about disagreeing with the accepted views of the Church.
Happily, the naturalists at Cambridge persuaded Darwin that he must make his ideas public. So Darwin and Wallace, another naturalist who had the same opinions as Darwin, produced a paper together. A year later Darwin's great book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection appeared. It attracted a storm.
People thought that Darwin was saying they were descended from monkeys. What a shameful idea! Although most scientists agreed that Darwin was right and that the story of Adam and Eve was merely a story, the Church was still so strong that Darwin never received any honours for his work.
Many years later, he published his other great work, The Descent of Man. He gave a lecture at the Royal Institution17, when the whole audience stood up and clapped18.
His health grew worse, but still he worked. “When I have to give up observation, I shall die,” he said. He was still working on 17, April, 1882. He was dead two days later.
随后他们到了Punta Alta 的干旱地带，达尔文在那儿发现了首批化石。奇怪的是，Cortez将马从西班牙带进美洲之前，Punta Alta是没有马的，为什么却有马骨化石呢？
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