Who is the best Briton? Lots of names have been tossed around; the list has been changed many a time but I have come to the conclusion that Charles Darwin is the best Briton. Charles Darwin had a major impact on both religion and science, sparking huge, international theological debate and that is why he is my choice.
Darwin had initially planned on perusing a career in medicine, and studied at Edinburgh University but switched, two years into the course, to divinity at Cambridge. Darwin read Lyell’s ‘Principles of Geology’ which suggested that the fossils found in rocks were actually evidence of animals that had lived thousands or millions of years ago, which was then backed up by the vast amount of animals and geological features he saw during his five year scientific voyage on the HMS Beagle. At least he had lovely animals to look at, or else the voyage would have gotten really boring!
Charles Darwin came up with the Theory of Evolution when he was around the Galapagos Islands, 500 miles west of South America. He noticed that each island had its own kind of finch, which were similar yet so different. Darwin tried to solve the questions of his observations and the puzzle of how species evolve when he returned to England in 1836 but needless to say, it’s harder than you might think! A lot of the questions he was trying to answer were based on Malthus’ theory of Natural Selection, which means the animals (or plants) best suited to their environment are more likely to survive and reproduce. This all made sense to Darwin, considering his discoveries showed the finches to be ever so slightly different depending on the circumstances of the environment.
Darwin worked on his theory for 20 years. He joined forces with Alfred Russel Wallace after discovering that they had developed similar ideas. Darwin published ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ in 1859, outlining his theory from the discoveries that he had made.
During his lifetime, Charles Darwin also earned three medals. The first of the medals he was awarded was a Royal Medal, which is only awarded for the most important contributions to natural knowledge, and he was awarded this in 1853. In 1859, he was awarded a Wollaston Medal, which is the highest scientific award for geology. The final medal he was awarded with was the Copley Medal in 1864. This medal is awarded for outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science. I personally think that it’s only fair that Darwin received this medal, considering the amount of time he spent studying the changes and adaptations of different species.
So I ask again; who is the best Briton? Overall, he managed to make fantastic discoveries whilst dropping out of his medicine course a mere two years into it. Charles Darwin is a prime example of showing that it doesn’t matter what sort of environment you were bought up in; you can still discover things in areas that interest you.