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Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. He was the son of Robert Waring Darwin and his wife Susannah; and the grandson of the scientist Erasmus Darwin, and of the potter Josiah Wedgwood. His mother died when he was eight years old, and he was brought up by his sister. He was taught classics at Shrewsbury, then sent to Edinburgh to study medicine, which he hated, and a final attempt at educating him was made by sending him to Christs College, Cambridge, to study theology (1827). During that period he loved to collect plants, insects, and geological specimens, guided by his cousin William Darwin Fox, an entomologist. His scientific inclinations were encouraged by his botany professor, John Stevens Henslow, who was instrumental, despite heavy paternal opposition, in securing a place for Darwin as a naturalist on the surveying expedition of HMS Beagle to Patagonia (1831 - 6).
Under Captain Robert Fitzroy, he visited Tenerife, the Cape Verde Is, Brazil, Montevideo, Tierra del Fuego, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso, Chile, the Galapagos, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Tasmania. In the Keeling Is he devised his theory of coral reefs. During this five-year expedition he obtained intimate knowledge of the fauna, flora, and geology of many lands, which equipped him for his later investigations. By 1846 he had published several works on the geological and zoological discoveries of his voyage- works that placed him at once in the front rank of scientists. He developed a friendship with Sir Charles Lyell, became secretary of the Geological Society (1838 - 41), and in 1839 married his cousin Emma Wedgewood (1808 - 96). From 1842 he lived at Down House, Downe, Kent, a country gentleman among his gardens, conservatories, pigeons, and fowls.
The practical knowledge he gained there, especially in variation and interbreeding, proved invaluable. Private means enabled him to devote himself to science, in spite of continuous ill-health: it was not realized until after his death that he had suffered from Chagass disease, which he had contracted from an insect bite while in South America. At Down House he addressed himself to the great work of his life- the problem of the origin of species. After five years of collecting the evidence, he began to speculate on the subject. In 1842 he drew up his observations in some short
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