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Charles Darwin

Birthdate: 12. February 1809
Date of death: 19. April 1882
Other names: Charles Robert Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors and, in a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.

Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and much of the general public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.

Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. Studies at the University of Cambridge encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author.

Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories. Darwin's work established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. In 1871 he examined human evolution and sexual selection in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals . His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms , he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.

Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and he was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey.

Works

„I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Voyage of the Beagle

Source: The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), chapter XXI: "Mauritius To England" (second edition, 1845), pages 499-500 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=512&itemID=F14&viewtype=image
Context: I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master's eye. … And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.

„When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled (emphasis, again, not Darwin's).“

—  Charles Darwin, book On the Origin of Species (1859)

Source: On the Origin of Species (1859), chapter XV: "Recapitulation and Conclusion", page 428 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=456&itemID=F391&viewtype=image, in the sixth (1872) edition
Context: Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled (emphasis, again, not Darwin's).

„A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.“

—  Charles Darwin

volume I, chapter VI: "The Voyage", page 266 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=284&itemID=F1452.1&viewtype=image; letter to sister Susan Elizabeth Darwin (4 August 1836)
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887)
Source: The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin

„Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

volume I, "Introduction", page 3 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=16&itemID=F937.1&viewtype=image
Source: The Descent of Man (1871)
Context: It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

„I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.“

—  Charles Darwin

volume II, chapter VII: "The 'Origin of Species'", pages 311-312 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=327&itemID=F1452.2&viewtype=image; letter http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-2814 to Asa Gray (22 May 1860)
"Ichneumonidæ" sometimes altered to "parasitic wasps" in paraphrases of this passage.
Paraphrased as "I feel most deeply that this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton! Let each man hope and believe what he can." Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Scientists (1916) page 197 http://books.google.com/books?id=nYArAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA198&f=false. <!-- Sometimes claimed that this appeared in Illustrated London News (21 April 1862), but a full search of every issue of Illustrated London News (1842–2003) through Gale Digital News Vault shows that this passage never appeared. -->
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887)
Context: With respect to the theological view of the question. This is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. Not believing this, I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can. Certainly I agree with you that my views are not at all necessarily atheistical.

„How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!“

—  Charles Darwin, book More Letters of Charles Darwin

Letter to (Sept. 18, 1861) in Life of Henry Fawcett (1885) pp. 100-101 https://books.google.com/books?id=RjI7AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA100, and in More Letters of Charles Darwin: a Record of his Work in a Series of hitherto Unpublished Letters (1903) Vol. 1, p. 195 https://books.google.com/books?id=j0QeAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA195, ed., Sir Francis Darwin, Albert Charles Seward.
Other letters, notebooks, journal articles, recollected statements
Context: About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!

„Upon finding out we did not catch our animals with the lazo, they cried out, "Ah, then, you use nothing but the bolas:" the idea of an enclosed country was quite new to them.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Voyage of the Beagle

Source: The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), chapter VIII: "Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento, etc." (second edition, 1845), entry for 19 November 1833, pages 147-148 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=160&itemID=F14&viewtype=image
Context: They expressed, as was usual, unbounded astonishment at the globe being round, and could scarcely credit that a hole would, if deep enough, come out on the other side. They had, however, heard of a country where there were six months light and six of darkness, and where the inhabitants were very tall and thin! They were curious about the price and condition of horses and cattle in England. Upon finding out we did not catch our animals with the lazo, they cried out, "Ah, then, you use nothing but the bolas:" the idea of an enclosed country was quite new to them. The captain at last said, he had one question to ask me, which he should be very much obliged if I would answer with all truth. I trembled to think how deeply scientific it would be: it was, "Whether the ladies of Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the world." I replied, like a renegade, "Charmingly so." He added, "I have one other question: Do ladies in any other part of the world wear such large combs?" I solemnly assured him that they did not. They were absolutely delighted. The captain exclaimed, "Look there! a man who has seen half the world says it is the case; we always thought so, but now we know it." My excellent judgment in combs and beauty procured me a most hospitable reception; the captain forced me to take his bed, and he would sleep on his recado.

„And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Voyage of the Beagle

Source: The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), chapter XXI: "Mauritius To England" (second edition, 1845), pages 499-500 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=512&itemID=F14&viewtype=image
Context: I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master's eye. … And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.

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„He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional links which must formerly have connected the closely allied or representative species, found in the several stages of the same great formation.“

—  Charles Darwin, book On the Origin of Species (1859)

Source: On the Origin of Species (1859), chapter X: "On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings", pages 341-343 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=359&itemID=F373&viewtype=side
Context: p>I have attempted to show that the geological record is extremely imperfect; that only a small portion of the globe has been geologically explored with care; that only certain classes of organic beings have been largely preserved in a fossil state; that the number both of specimens and of species, preserved in our museums, is absolutely as nothing compared with the incalculable number of generations which must have passed away even during a single formation; that, owing to subsidence being necessary for the accumulation of fossiliferous deposits thick enough to resist future degradation, enormous intervals of time have elapsed between the successive formations; that there has probably been more extinction during the periods of subsidence, and more variation during the periods of elevation, and during the latter the record will have been least perfectly kept; that each single formation has not been continuously deposited; that the duration of each formation is, perhaps, short compared with the average duration of specific forms; that migration has played an important part in the first appearance of new forms in any one area and formation; that widely ranging species are those which have varied most, and have oftenest given rise to new species; and that varieties have at first often been local (emphasis not Darwin's). All these causes taken conjointly, must have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional links which must formerly have connected the closely allied or representative species, found in the several stages of the same great formation. He may disbelieve in the enormous intervals of time which have elapsed between our consecutive formations; he may overlook how important a part migration must have played, when the formations of any one great region alone, as that of Europe, are considered; he may urge the apparent, but often falsely apparent, sudden coming in of whole groups of species. He may ask where are the remains of those infinitely numerous organisms which must have existed long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited: I can answer this latter question only hypothetically, by saying that as far as we can see, where our oceans now extend they have for an enormous period extended, and where our oscillating continents now stand they have stood ever since the Silurian epoch; but that long before that period, the world may have presented a wholly different aspect; and that the older continents, formed of formations older than any known to us, may now all be in a metamorphosed condition, or may lie buried under the ocean.</p

„I have nothing to do with the origin of the primary mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself.“

—  Charles Darwin, book On the Origin of Species (1859)

Source: On the Origin of Species (1859), chapter VII: "Instinct", page 207 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=225&itemID=F373&viewtype=side
Context: I must premise, that I have nothing to do with the origin of the primary mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself. We are concerned only with the diversities of instinct and of the other mental qualities of animals within the same class.

„We are a wretched family, and ought to be exterminated.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin

Volume II, Chapter III, "Spread of Evolution - 1861-1862,") p. 175 https://books.google.com/books?id=BSdBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA175&dq=We+are+a+wretched+family+%26+ought+to+be+exterminated+++++darwin++scarlet+fever&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDcQ6AEwBGoVChMI0OmV8rHGxwIVA56ACh2YEAYF#v=onepage&q=We%20are%20a%20wretched%20family%20%26%20ought%20to%20be%20exterminated%20%20%20%20%20darwin%20%20scarlet%20fever&f=false. Letter to Asa Gray (1810-1888), (21 August 1862)
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887)
Context: We are a wretched family, and ought to be exterminated. We slept here to rest our poor boy on his journey to Bournemouth, and my poor dear wife sickened with scarlet fever, and has had it pretty sharply, but is recovering well. There is no end of trouble in this weary world. (Owing to the illness from scarlet fever of one of his boys, he [Darwin] took a house at Bournemouth in the autumn. He wrote to Dr. Gray from Southampton).

„Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring.“

—  Charles Darwin, book On the Origin of Species (1859)

Source: On the Origin of Species (1859), chapter III: "Struggle For Existence", page 61 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=76&itemID=F373&viewtype=image
Context: Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection.

„I have attempted to show that the geological record is extremely imperfect“

—  Charles Darwin, book On the Origin of Species (1859)

Source: On the Origin of Species (1859), chapter X: "On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings", pages 341-343 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=359&itemID=F373&viewtype=side
Context: p>I have attempted to show that the geological record is extremely imperfect; that only a small portion of the globe has been geologically explored with care; that only certain classes of organic beings have been largely preserved in a fossil state; that the number both of specimens and of species, preserved in our museums, is absolutely as nothing compared with the incalculable number of generations which must have passed away even during a single formation; that, owing to subsidence being necessary for the accumulation of fossiliferous deposits thick enough to resist future degradation, enormous intervals of time have elapsed between the successive formations; that there has probably been more extinction during the periods of subsidence, and more variation during the periods of elevation, and during the latter the record will have been least perfectly kept; that each single formation has not been continuously deposited; that the duration of each formation is, perhaps, short compared with the average duration of specific forms; that migration has played an important part in the first appearance of new forms in any one area and formation; that widely ranging species are those which have varied most, and have oftenest given rise to new species; and that varieties have at first often been local (emphasis not Darwin's). All these causes taken conjointly, must have tended to make the geological record extremely imperfect, and will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory. For he may ask in vain where are the numberless transitional links which must formerly have connected the closely allied or representative species, found in the several stages of the same great formation. He may disbelieve in the enormous intervals of time which have elapsed between our consecutive formations; he may overlook how important a part migration must have played, when the formations of any one great region alone, as that of Europe, are considered; he may urge the apparent, but often falsely apparent, sudden coming in of whole groups of species. He may ask where are the remains of those infinitely numerous organisms which must have existed long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited: I can answer this latter question only hypothetically, by saying that as far as we can see, where our oceans now extend they have for an enormous period extended, and where our oscillating continents now stand they have stood ever since the Silurian epoch; but that long before that period, the world may have presented a wholly different aspect; and that the older continents, formed of formations older than any known to us, may now all be in a metamorphosed condition, or may lie buried under the ocean.</p

„Disinterested love for all living creatures, the most noble attribute of man.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

volume I, chapter III: "Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals — continued", page 105 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=118&itemID=F937.1&viewtype=image
The Descent of Man (1871)

„The highest stage in moral culture at which we can arrive, is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts.“

—  Charles Darwin, book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

volume I, chapter III: "Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals — continued", page 101 http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=114&itemID=F937.1&viewtype=image
The Descent of Man (1871)

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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