Charles Darwin, full name Charles Robert Darwin, was born in Shrewsbury, England in February 1809 as the fifth child of Susannah and Robert Darwin. His father and grandfather were successful doctors; this had a significant influence in his interests and later theories. His elder brother Erasmus Alvey was more interested in art and literature, which made Darwin believe that education and the environment have only a small effect on the mind and interests of a person. Charles Darwin’s mother died when he was eight years old, and his elder sisters raised him. He entered Shrewsbury school at the age of nine. As he was a poor student, he was unable to complete his medicine course at EdinburgUniversity. After this failure in a medicine course, Darwin joined Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1828 but he also realized that he was not suited to life as a minister (Bowlby, 1991).
Finally, Darwin completed a course in Botany at John Henslow’s, where he got his Bachelor’s degree and made his famous beetle collection. Henslow was responsible for the recommendation that enabled Darwin to get a position as a naturalist to survey the South American Coast in the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836 (Desmond & Moore, 1994). During the voyage, Darwin was extremely interested in the location of plants and animals that he studied and collected as samples. During the trip, he also noticed that some organisms existed only in certain areas and had changed in order to survive in their environments. Darwin’s journal was published in 1839 with the aid of a government grant, the journal included articles from other authors on fossils, and different animals. In the Beagle voyage, Charles Darwin also studied coral reefs and wrote a book on their structure and distribution in 1842. In 1859, Darwin published his paper “The Origin of Species,” which received attention from scholars such as Herbert Spencer, Charles Lyell, and Alfred Russell (Bowlby, 1991). He published five editions to the book as a way of answering questions that were raised by the critics. Despite the efforts made in writing the other five editions to the book, they only made his theories weaker and more susceptible to criticism. According to many scholars, the first edition was the best and most convincing. The book was responsible for changing the perceptions of many people on the theory of evolution. Charles Darwin died in 1882; he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey on April 26 of the same year.
Contribution to the Field of Psychology
Charles Darwin contributed significantly to the field of psychology through his research and publications. His evolution theories and notions were significant in changing the focus of psychology. The functionalist school of thought in psychology was based on the structure of consciousness to the functions of new psychology. The mind of an organism is essential in enabling the organism to adapt to the environment (Schultz & Schultz, 2004). The notions of adaptation were significant in the foundations of functional psychology and in answering the question of what mental processes accomplished. This school of thought was interested in the functioning of the mind through accumulation of functions and processes and their consequences in the real world. Through the theories of natural selection and evolution, Darwin was able to influence the outlook of human beings and their existence.
Another important contribution to the field of psychology was in experimental psychology. Darwin was interested in the recognition of emotional expression in people’s faces and conducted an experiment to study emotional expressions. His interest in human psychology was also captured in his published book in 1872. The book focused on the expression of emotions in human beings and animals and claimed that human beings, as well as other animals show emotions through similar behavior. Emotion had a special characteristic, according to Darwin, that could be traced across different cultures and even species. This view was not accepted at the time, although today psychologists believe that some emotions are universal across cultures (Jabr, 2010). Darwin corresponded with French physician Amand Duchenne in his study on emotions; however, their views on the expression of emotions in facial expression were in contrast. Darwin believed that facial muscles were responsible for creation of a core set of a few emotions, unlike Duchenne who believed that they could form at least 60 different emotional expressions (Jabr, 2010).
Another important contribution to the field of psychology is the publication of the article, ‘A Biographical Sketch of an Infant.’ This article contained diary records of their first child, which he recorded after observing the baby in its formative years (Darwin, 1999). In this account of developmental psychology in children, he focused on both innate and learnt behavior, communication, and development of emotions such as fear, affection, and pleasure. He was also interested in instinct and memory development in the child’s early life. His accounts on the issue of early development of emotional expression in children were also key to the understanding of innate universal emotions.
The use of observation for such a comprehensive study was also a significant contribution to research methodology in psychology.Charles Darwin was a pioneer in collection of new forms of data, thus breaking the limits on the types of data and methodology that could be used in psychological research. This study was the first use of observation to produce substantive information on child development (Darwin, 1999). This methodology has been developed by modern day psychologists to develop experiments that are used to complement other study methods.
Introduction to the Theory of Evolution
Many scholars and philosophers argued about the supreme creator in life due to its complexity and nature. Charles Darwin was among the first scholars to present an alternate theory of the origin of life (Skelton, 1987). The evolution theories presented by Charles Darwin were not only limited to living things, since he wrote a book in 1844 discussing the structure and formation of volcanic islands. Evolution and continuous change in his theories was also captured in his book, which discussed the theories on formation of coral reefs.
The book on the origin of species was the most important work of Charles Darwin documenting the theory of evolution. In the book, Darwin made clear his belief in God, but went ahead to point that the plants and animals did not remain the way God had created them (Skelton, 1987). Species of plants and animals had evolved or changed from other forms to their present form over a period of millions of years through natural selection. According to the theory, each species produce off springs with the ability to survive on the space and food available in their environment. This results in a high competition for survival among organisms. The competition predisposes the individuals that possess a specific advantage with the ability to beat the others in the race for food and space (Francis, 2007).
Darwin also believed that some individual organisms or species had natural advantages in their difference from the others. The species or organisms with the advantage are more fit and likely to reproduce and survive. These survival traits are then passed to the offspring, while the members without the advantage reproduce less, and are less likely to survive, thus their species die. The theory is based on the accumulation of the small differences over millions of years, which may result in change in the form of the species. The species forms that are less fit die out and may be preserved in fossils (Sharma, 2011).
Darwin pointed that different animals from the same scientific class have been discovered to have similar body parts. Limbs of different animals such as the horse, mole, and the porpoise were found to have similar patterns and including the same bones. This, according to Charles Darwin, was proof of a similar origin for these animals, thus supporting his theory of evolution. In formulating the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin observed different species of finches in the Galapagos Island. The birds had similar characteristics with those from the South American mainland; however, the birds had differing beak structures corresponding with their new surroundings. The ancestral species of finches had evolved into different species adapted to different ecological conditions (Sharma, 2011). The thyrory showed that both inter and intraspecific competion was responsible for the evolution of species. Only the animals or plants that were fit would survive, while the less suited died out. The survival advantage was passed on to the offsprings through reproduction.
An Exegesis of the Work
Scholars had rejected the theory of evolution and the public in general before Charles Darwin presented the Origin of Species. The major pre Darwinian theories were in contrast with the force of linear progress and advocated a force of adaptation. This view drew the lineages of species into specialized and particular relationships with their immediate environment. Many people, especially members of the clergy were opposed to the evolution theories expressed by Charles Darwin and other scholars. In the theory of natural selection, Charles Darwin did not endorse the existence of primary progressive forces, but instead promoted the force of adaptation. Natural selection, therefore, had sufficient lateral force to generate evolutionary change through accumulation of tiny adaptive increments over an immense geological time (Gould, 2002).
Another important aspect of the origin of species is that Darwin characterized it as one long argument without stating what the focus of the argument was. This left scholars and the public with a wide variety of suggestions on the focus of the book. Some people felt that it had a narrow focus on evolution, while others saw it as an argument for the broad application of hypothetical and deductive model of scientific reasoning. The book utilized the concept of historical science in its analysis to validate the theory of evolution. The methodology used involved adequate procedures for collecting information and making strong inferences about the history of orgnisms and species (Darwin & Eliot, 2004). Darwin extrapolated short term processes to explain large scale results using the information available. The theoretical aspect of the book involved three main components. The components include the premise that organismal struggle was the appropriate level of action for natural selection. The other premises are that the natural selection is a creative force for evolutionary change and extrapolation of short term events to make inference about the long term effect and situation.
Charles Darwin conducted the adequate research and provided numerous facts from the observation to prove his theory. His focus on the organism level as opposed to the species was the main focus of the book and enabled readers to capture the logical flow of ideas through extrapolation and consideration of the accumulation effect of small changes in organisms. Darwin provided a clear account of the evolutionary process in organisms with clear examples in his book to prove his theory.