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Born in Shrewsbury Shropshire England on February 12 1809 After graduating from the elite school at Shrewsbury in 1825 Darwin went to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine In 1827 he dropped out of medical school and entered the University of Cambridge in preparation for becoming a clergyman of the Church of England There he met two figures Adam Sedgwick a geologist and John Stevens Henslow a naturalist Henslow not only helped build Darwins self-confidence but also taught his student to be a painstaking observer of natural phenomena and collector of specimens After graduating from Cambridge in 1831 the 22-year-old Darwin was taken aboard the English survey ship HMS Beagle largely on Henslows recommendation as an unpaid naturalist on a scientific expedition around the world Darwins job as naturalist aboard the Beagle gave him the opportunity to observe the various geological formations found on different continents and islands along the way as well as a huge variety of fossils and living organisms In his geological observations Darwin was most impressed with the effect that natural forces had on shaping the earths surface At the time most geologists adhered to the so-called catastrophist theory that the earth had experienced a succession of creations of animal and plant life and that each creation had been destroyed by a sudden catastrophe such as an upheaval or convulsion of the earths surface According to this theory the most recent catastrophe Noahs flood wiped away all life except those forms taken into the ark The rest were visible only in the form of fossils In the view of the catastrophists species were individually created and immutable that is unchangeable for all time Aboard the Beagle Darwin found himself fitting many of his observations into Lyells general uniformitarian view Beyond that however he realized that some of his own observations of fossils and living plants and animals cast doubt on the Lyell-supported view that species were specially created He
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