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Charles Darwin

Date de naissance: 12. février 1809
Date de décès: 19. avril 1882
Autres noms: Charles Robert Darwin

Charles Darwin [tʃɑːlz ˈdɑːwɪn], né le 12 février 1809 à Shrewsbury dans le Shropshire et mort le 19 avril 1882 à Downe dans le Kent, est un naturaliste et paléontologue anglais dont les travaux sur l'évolution des espèces vivantes ont révolutionné la biologie avec son ouvrage L'Origine des espèces paru en 1859. Célèbre au sein de la communauté scientifique de son époque pour son travail sur le terrain et ses recherches en géologie, il a adopté l'hypothèse émise 50 ans auparavant par le Français Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck selon laquelle toutes les espèces vivantes ont évolué au cours du temps à partir d'un seul ou quelques ancêtres communs et il a soutenu avec Alfred Wallace que cette évolution était due au processus dit de la « sélection naturelle ».

Darwin a vu de son vivant la théorie de l'évolution acceptée par la communauté scientifique et le grand public, alors que sa théorie sur la sélection naturelle a dû attendre les années 1930 pour être généralement considérée comme l'explication essentielle du processus d'évolution. Au XXIe siècle, elle constitue en effet la base de la théorie moderne de l'évolution. Sous une forme modifiée, la découverte scientifique de Darwin reste le fondement de la biologie, car elle explique de façon logique et unifiée la diversité de la vie.

L'intérêt de Darwin pour l'histoire naturelle lui vint alors qu'il avait commencé à étudier la médecine à l'université d'Édimbourg, puis la théologie à Cambridge. Son voyage de cinq ans à bord du Beagle l'établit dans un premier temps comme un géologue dont les observations et les théories soutenaient les théories actualistes de Charles Lyell. La publication de son journal de voyage le rendit célèbre. Intrigué par la distribution géographique de la faune sauvage et des fossiles dont il avait recueilli des spécimens au cours de son voyage, il étudia la transformation des espèces et en conçut sa théorie sur la sélection naturelle en 1838. Il fut fortement influencé par les théories de Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon.

Ayant constaté que d'autres avaient été qualifiés d'hérétiques pour avoir avancé des idées analogues, il ne se confia qu'à ses amis les plus intimes et continua à développer ses recherches pour prévenir les objections qui immanquablement lui seraient faites. En 1858, Alfred Russel Wallace lui fit parvenir un essai qui décrivait une théorie semblable, ce qui les amena à faire connaître leurs théories dans une présentation commune. Son livre de 1859, L'Origine des espèces, fit de l'évolution à partir d'une ascendance commune l'explication scientifique dominante de la diversification des espèces naturelles. Il examina l'évolution humaine et la sélection sexuelle dans La Filiation de l'homme et la sélection liée au sexe, suivi par L'Expression des émotions chez l'homme et les animaux. Ses recherches sur les plantes furent publiées dans une série de livres et, dans son dernier ouvrage, il étudiait les lombrics et leur action sur le sol.

Œuvres

Citations Charles Darwin

„Les véritables affinités des êtres organisés, au contraire de leurs ressemblances d’adaptation, sont le résultat héréditaire de la communauté de descendance.“

—  Charles Darwin

The real affinities of all organic beings are due to inheritance or community of descent.
en
L'Origine des espèces, 1859

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„Lamarck était le premier homme dont les conclusions furent publiées sur ce sujet en 1801.“

—  Charles Darwin

Lamarck was the first man whose conclusions on this subject were published in 1801.
en
Opinion historique sur l'origine des espèces
L'Origine des espèces, 1859

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

—  Charles Darwin, livre 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
Contexte: 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, livre 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
Contexte: 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)
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, livre La Filiation de l'homme et la sélection liée au sexe

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)
Contexte: 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.

„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, livre 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
Contexte: 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.

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

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