1. Charles Darwin was a scientist and naturalist who was pretty bad at math.

A portrait of Charles Darwin
A portrait of scientist Charles Darwin from the 1880s. | iStock Via Getty Images Plus

Charles Darwin, born in Shrewsbury, England in 1809, was a biologist and naturalist best known for his theory of evolution through natural selection, which is the idea that organisms change over time through heritable traits that better allow them to adapt to environmental challenges. Those that don't, die off, which is why it has subsequently been dubbed "survival of the fittest."

Unfortunately, Darwin's connection to the world of science didn't lend itself to a love of math. After struggling with the subject in college, Darwin was forced to hire a tutor in 1828. But when he continued to lag behind, he fired the tutor after just a few weeks. To Darwin, algebra was a "repugnant" subject, but as he got older, he regretted his impatience with math.

2. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection (or Darwinism) came about at the same time as Alfred Russel Wallace's.

Illustration of Charles Darwin.
Charles Darwin's theories were (and, in some cases, still are) the source of controversy and mockery. | Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

Charles Darwin began studying what would become known as natural selection in the 1830s, but, concerned about the public reaction, he sat on his new theory for decades. By the mid-1850s, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had begun independently working on his own ideas of natural selection and knew Darwin had been involved in similar research. Wallace even sent Darwin a paper he had written on the subject to peer review it, and the two later collaborated on a new paper on the subject in 1858.

Then, in 1859, Darwin finally went public with his theory with On The Origin of Species. No longer shackled to the niche scientific community, Darwin's book presented these world-shaking ideas to the masses, forever linking the scientist to this famed theory. Wallace, on the other hand, often goes overlooked.

3. Charles Darwin's Voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle led to many of his breakthroughs.

Finches sketched by Charles Darwin
The variations in different finch beaks were vital to Darwin's theory of natural selection. | Getty Images Plus

On December 27, 1831, Darwin set sail aboard the H.M.S. Beagle on a five-year voyage to the Pacific Islands, the Galápagos Islands, and South America. It was on this journey that a 22-year-old Darwin would visit several continents, ship more than 1500 species back home to study, and fill notebook after notebook with his discoveries. While on the Galápagos, finches were particularly vital to Darwin as he was forming his theory of natural selection. He observed the variations in the shape of their beaks (some had longer, pointier beaks, while others were short and stout) from island to island, further confirming that the unique challenges in each environment led finches with specific traits to become dominant.

4. Charles Darwin’s Book On The Origin of Species took 25 years to write.

A copy of Charles Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species' sits on display at Down House in Orpington, England in February 2009
The first-ever published copy of Charles Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species.' | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Darwin devoted his life to science and had a few published works, but On The Origin of Species is his most well-known book. It illustrates his theory of evolution and process of natural selection and was published on November 24, 1859. But a work of such significance isn't easy: On the Origin of Species took Charles Darwin 25 years to write.

5. Charles Darwin had 10 Children with his first cousin.

A portrait of Charles Darwin
A copper engraving of Charles Darwin from a fourth edition German translation of 'The Origin of Species' | Ivan Mattioli / iStock via Getty Images Plus

Charles Darwin married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, on January 29, 1839. The two shared the same grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood. Together, the couple had 10 children:

  • Elizabeth Darwin: 1847–1929
  • George Darwin: 1845–1912
  • Henrietta Darwin: 1843­–1927
  • Mary Darwin: 1842
  • Anne Darwin: 1841­­–1851
  • William Darwin: 1839–1949
  • Francis Darwin: 1848–1925
  • Leonard Darwin: 1850–1943
  • Horace Darwin: 1851–1928
  • Charles Darwin: 1856–1858

Charles Darwin was a botanist and experimented with breeding plants in his greenhouse. He found that cross-fertilization produced much healthier plants than self-fertilization, and it’s said he worried whether his children would have health issues due to their parents being so closely related.

Two of his other children didn’t make it into adulthood. And three that did survive and marry were never able to have any children of their own.

6. Charles Darwin was a foodie before that was a thing.

A photo of a brown owl perched on a branch.
Scientist Charles Darwin and his friends from Cambridge apparently couldn't stomach the taste of owl. | Martin-Kubik/iStock via Getty Images

While studying at Cambridge, Darwin became a member of the Glutton Club. This was basically a group of friends who would meet up once a week to eat "birds and beasts, which were before unknown to human palate." This led to a wide variety of peculiar meals, such as iguanas, armadillos, and plenty of rodents. The club apparently disbanded after a particularly hideous taste of a brown owl, which Darwin said was "indescribable."

Books written by Charles Darwin.

Other than On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin's other books include:

  • The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom
  • The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
  • The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex
  • The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species
  • The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms
  • The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication
  • On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids Are Fertilised by Insects.

Famous quotes from Charles Darwin.

  • “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
  • “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”
  • "Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for that of the being which she tends."
  • “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”