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Darwin's Early Life


Charles Robert Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. His parents were Dr. Robert and Susannah Darwin. His grandfather was Erasmus Darwin, well known at the time as a scientist with unusual ideas.

For Darwin's first few years in school he went to Shrewsbury School, where most of the lessons were in the classics such as Latin. Darwin did not do very well. As he wrote later, "I believe that I was considered by all my masters and by my father as a very ordinary boy, rather below the common intelligence."

Darwin's own interest was nature. He was especially interested in beetles. Under the encouragement of one of his teachers, Darwin developed a large beetle collection, including some very rare species of beetle.


Darwin's father wanted him to become a doctor, so in 1825 Darwin started going to Edinburgh Medical School. However, he left after only two years, in 1827, because he was bored by the lectures and could not stand to watch the surgery, which at that time was done with no painkiller. After Darwin gave up medicine, his father arranged for him to study to become a priest. In 1828, Darwin went to Cambridge University to study for priesthood, earning a bachelor of arts degree at Cambridge University in 1831.

Darwin continued to develop his interest in rocks, fossils, animals, and plants. He became friends with two Cambridge professors, geologist Adam Sedgwick and botanist John Henslow.

As Darwin was thinking about his interests and future, an around-the-world sailing trip on the ship HMS Beagle was being arranged by the Royal Navy. Robert Fitzroy, captain of the Beagle, asked Professor John Henslow to recommend a naturalist for the journey. Henslow recommended Darwin.