CBC Digital Archives

Days in the life of Darwin

The year 1809 was remarkable for producing figures of great historical importance, including Lincoln, Chopin, Poe, Braille, Tennyson and many others. But no other figure produced as dramatic an effect on society as the English naturalist Charles Darwin. His groundbreaking theory of evolution had a major impact on religion, education, history and our conception of humankind. Now, 200 years after his birth and 150 years since the publication of The Origin of Species, the CBC Digital Archives looks at the history of Darwin, his controversial theory and the ways in which his thoughts still affect the world.

Charles Darwin's contribution to scientific thought was so earth-shaking that it tends to overshadow the other aspects of his life. The career of Darwin the scientist is well-documented, but what about Darwin the man? In this 1976 clip, CBC Radio's This Morning explores the lesser-known details of Charles Darwin's life.
• Charles Darwin turned 25 while aboard the HMS Beagle and to celebrate the occasion, the ship's captain named a mountain after the young man. At almost 2,500 metres, Mount Darwin is the highest peak in Tierra del Fuego. Mountains named for Darwin also stand in Antarctica, Tasmania and California.

• Darwin described himself as an agnostic, and was puzzled by the sometimes heated arguments between evolutionists and creationists. In an 1879 letter to his friend John Fordyce, Darwin wrote, "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist." In 1898, he said "there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness."
  • There is a long-standing rumour that Darwin converted to Christianity and even renounced evolution on his deathbed. This dates back to a 1915 story in the Boston Watchman-Examiner, repeating the claim of British evangelist named "Lady Hope," who said she visited Darwin on his deathbed. Darwin's daughter Henrietta refuted the story in a 1922 article in the Christian. She wrote, "Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her ... He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier... The whole story has no foundation whatever."

Medium: Radio
Program: This Morning (1976)
Broadcast Date: May 25, 1976
Guest(s): William Swinton
Host: Laurier LaPierre
Duration: 14:37

Last updated: February 8, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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