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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Artist’s reconstruction of a new fossil species Hemignathus vorpalis (bottom), based on its probable resemblance to adult males of its genus: H. wilsoni (Akiapola’au, above) and H. lucidus hanepepe (Kauai Nukupu’u, middle). Illustration © J. Hume


Artist’s reconstruction of a new fossil species Hemignathus vorpalis (bottom), based on its probable resemblance to adult males of its genus: H. wilsoni (Akiapola’au, above) and H. lucidus hanepepe (Kauai Nukupu’u, middle).

Illustration © J. Hume

Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809. Fifty years later, he published On the Origin of Species, one of the most influential books ever written.

What made Darwin, the indifferent student, into Darwin, one of the world’s most famous scientists?

National Museum of Natural History Entomology Collection

Darwin was a collector, and developed a large beetle collection. The Museum's entomology collection is more vast than even Darwin could have imagined.
Photo (c) Smithsonian Institution

Nature was Darwin's classroom.


Charles Darwin didn’t like school. Lectures and memorization bored him. He preferred to be outside, walking and observing nature in fields or along a riverbank. An average student, he was fonder of shooting birds than of studying.

In his Autobiography, Darwin recalled that his disappointed father, a successful physician, predicted, “You will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”

Charles Darwin had three qualities that contributed to his success as a scientist.

  • He was a voracious reader.
  • He was an astute observer of the natural world.
  • He asked insightful questions and pursued their answers with an open mind.

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