Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants, animals and fossils during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. Darwin visited four continents on the ship HMS Beagle.

Darwin observed many organisms including finches, tortoises and mockingbirds, during his five-week visit to the Galapágos Islands, near Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. He continued to work and develop his ideas once he returned from his voyages.

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection challenged the idea that God made all the animals and plants that live on Earth. This idea contradicted the commonly held Christian views of his era. Darwin’s world expedition and observations, were backed by many years of experimentation, discussions with like-minded scientists and his developing knowledge of geology and fossils. Finally he felt able to propose his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin published his scientific work and ideas 28 years after his voyage.

Darwin proposed that:

  • individual organisms within a particular species show a wide range of variation for a characteristic
  • individuals with characteristics most suited to the environment are more likely to survive to breed successfully
  • the characteristics that have enabled these individuals to survive are then passed on to the next generation

This theory is called natural selection.