Charles Darwin and Professor Henslow


Dried plantNot for Charles Darwin the time-honoured student life - drinking, parties and just enough work to get by.

Research, published in the magazine Nature, reveals that while the rest of his mates were propping up the University bar, Darwin was already dreaming up his theories on evolution (though you can learn a lot about the LACK of evolution in a student bar.)

The article is the work, in part, of Dr Mark Whitehorn, a Business Intelligence expert at University College Worcester.

It is widely believed that Darwin first became interested in variation, one of the central pillars of the theory of evolution, during his journey aboard HMS Beagle.

This latest research doesn't argue with Darwin's place as the Father of Evolution, but it does suggest that his interest in the systematic study of variation arose much earlier than was thought and was sparked by the original work carried out by his mentor at Cambridge University, Professor John Henslow.

Beagle bound

The article claims that it was Professor Henslow's botanical investigations on the nature of species that established the necessary framework for Darwin’s subsequent evolutionary thought.

This is what the research is based on

Between 1821 and 1835 Professor Henslow establishing an Herbarium composed of 10, 172 plants attached to 3, 654 herbarium sheets.

Dr Mark WhitehornHe used a variety of specimen collectors, one of whom was the young Charles Darwin, who enrolled at Cambridge in 1827 – four years before sailing on the Beagle.

It was also Professor Henslow who subsequently arranged Charles Darwin’s berth on HMS Beagle.

Ironically Professor Henslow was a devout Christian, who believed in Creationism.

Dr Mark Whitehorn

"Far more than just recommending Darwin for the Beagle, we believe Henslow launched Darwin's mind during those undergraduate days on an intellectual voyage that led from a belief in species-stability to the mutability expressed in the Origin of Species." said Dr Whitehorn.

He believes the research had already caused "a significant stir among the scientific community" and that the team had several future research projects to work upon.

The article in nature is the work of:

  • Dr Mark Whitehorn, a Business Intelligence expert at UCW
  • Professor David Kohn a noted Darwin scholar at Drew University in the USA
  • Professor John Parker, a botanist at the University of Cambridge
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Privately printed Extracts from letters addressed to Professor Henslow
Book (Privately printed)

Herbert Spencer first used the phrase – after re

by TheSchittygrubben

Herbert Spencer first used the phrase – after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species – in his Principles of Biology (1864), in which he drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin's biological ones, writing, "This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called 'natural selection', or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Herbert Spencer is smiling

by Repentful

British philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer was a major figure in the intellectual life of the Victorian era. He was one of the principal proponents of evolutionary theory in the mid nineteenth century, and his reputation at the time rivaled that of Charles Darwin. Spencer was initially best known for developing and applying evolutionary theory to philosophy, psychology and the study of society -- what he called his "synthetic philosophy" (see his A System of Synthetic Philosophy, 1862-93). Today, however, he is usually remembered in philosophical circles for his political thought, primarily for his defense of natural rights and for criticisms of utilitarian positivism, and his views have been invoked by 'libertarian' thinkers such as Robert Nozick

Charles Darwin and the secrets of the Galapagos Islands

— ABC Online
The Galapagos Islands are famous for their abundance of wildlife, which inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Robyn Williams retraces Darwin's footsteps and discovers that not all that much has changed off the coast of Ecuador.

Extracts from Letters addressed to Professor Henslow by C. Darwin, Esq. read at a meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 16 November, 1835 / A reprint of the original pamphlet dated Cambridge, Dec. 1, 1835
Book (Caqmbridge, UK: Privately Printed)
[Extracts from letters addressed to Professor Henslow by C. Darwin, Esq: Read at a meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society on the 16th of November 1835
Book (Cambridge Philosophical Society)
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