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Darwin Day

Authored by Rex Cleaver
Published on 12th February, 2023 2 min read

Darwin Day

A poster for Darwin Day.

Today (12/02/2023) is Darwin Day, an annual celebration that commemorates the birthday of Charles Darwin (12th February 1809 - 19th April 1882), Britain’s most famous naturalist and biologist. 

Known for his contributions to evolutionary biology, Darwin’s pioneering work proposed that all species of life descended from a common ancestor. In his seminal text, On the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin posited the idea that populations evolve over time through the process of natural selection, ensuring that only the fittest survive to pass their genes on to the next generation. This groundbreaking theory radically changed the way in which people viewed the world and soon became a fundamental concept in science.

Darwin first travelled to South America in the 1830s for the purpose of completing geographical surveys to chart its harbours and map the region. Whilst on his travels, he collected samples of plants, animals, rocks, and fossils. When he arrived back in England, he set about investigating how species develop and change over time. Through comparisons of similar species collected in South America, he discovered that each changed according to its unique environment. From this, he theorised that species develop traits that are likely to increase their chances of survival over time by passing them down genetically. 

This theory of ‘natural selection’ proved as controversial as it did influential. Due to the implication that species would take millions of years to evolve in their unique environment, this discovery smashed the religious myth that the earth was only 6000 years old. After a decade of public debate between scientists and clergymen, Darwin’s ideas were widely accepted as fact from the 1870s onwards. 

While Darwin Day provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the legendary naturalist, it also serves as a time when scientific thinking and intellectual bravery should be highlighted and celebrated. 

Authored by Rex Cleaver

Rex Cleaver

Rex is an Editorial Assistant at British Online Archives

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Notable Days


The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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