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Darwin's Later Life


Darwin returned to Falmouth, England on October 2, 1836, and for the next few years he spent a lot of time cataloguing and recording what he had collected on the voyage.

In 1839 Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, and the next year, after his first book came out, Darwin moved into Down House, near Bromley, England, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Darwin continued his research during the 1840s and 1850s, publishing three more books during the 1840s.

Though he became ill a few years later, Darwin continued his research into his idea of evolution, studying his Beagle specimens and notes made during his journey as evidence for evolution. Darwin also talked to pigeon breeders as part of his research. As he researched and wrote about his ideas, Darwin became more and more convinced of his "theory of evolution by natural selection".

However, Darwin was reluctant to publish his ideas because they went so strongly against the ideas of the day. Darwin thought that the society was not yet ready for his ideas, and he knew that there would be a lot of protest.

What finally caused Darwin to publish this work was a letter from English naturalist Alfred Wallace, who knew that Darwin was interested in evolution. The letter came in June, 1858, from Malaya. With it was a summary of Wallace's theory, On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type. Darwin was amazed! This was his own theory written out by Wallace. He even said: "Even his terms stand as heads of my chapters."

Scientists Lyell and Hooker advised Darwin and Wallace to have their work read to a scientific meeting. The work was read at the Linnean Society in London, in July of 1858. After this, Wallace agreed that Darwin should continue with their theory while he himself stood on the sidelines, because Darwin had collected so much more evidence to support it. On November 24, 1859, Darwin published the theory in his book, titled On the Origin of Species.

At first, in anticipation of the outcry that would follow the publication of the new theory, only 1,250 copies were printed. These sold out in the first day. Many people, including some of Darwin's old friends and his family, were very angry about the new ideas, and one person even called Darwin "the most dangerous man in England." However, a few people saw the good science in the ideas and the huge amounts of evidence to support them. In England, Darwin was defended by Thomas Huxley, Hooker, and Lyell; in North America, by Asa Gray. Darwin himself did not become involved in the arguments.

Darwin continued his research and writing, publishing several more books in the 1870s.

Darwin died at Down House on April 19, 1882, at age 73. By the time he died, Darwin had become a national figure and was considered one of the greatest scientists of all time. He received the honor of being buried at Westminster Abbey, London, next to Isaac Newton.

Since Darwin's death, Darwin, a city in Australia's Northern Territory, and the Charles Darwin Scientific Research Buildings in the Galapagos Islands, Equador, have been named after him.