How To Learn Like Charles Darwin
was one of the titans of modern science and his Theory of Evolution was a
landmark in human history that transformed our understanding of
ourselves and the world around us.
Never one to follow the crowd, Darwin dropped out of medical school against his father's wishes and chose to study theology at Cambridge, where he explored the Bible in great depth.
While he was at Cambridge, his cousin William Darwin Fox introduced him to the popular craze for beetle collecting; and young Charles pursued this enthusiastically, even getting some of his finds published in James Francis Stephens' well known Illustrations of British entomology.
He also became a close friend and follower of botany professor John Stevens Henslow – who took on the role of a mentor for Darwin.
During his degree, he also furthered his interest in animals by setting up the Gourmet Club, where members dined on exotic beasts.
One time, Darwin was sick trying to choke down a brown owl, which he described as "indescribable"!
After coming 10th out of 178 students in his final exams, Darwin went on a short holiday with his friends in Barmouth to celebrate.
And when he came home, he found a letter from Henslow proposing him as a naturalist for a self-funded place on the HMS Beagle with captain Robert FitzRoy.
Charles’ father Robert objected to his son's planned two-year voyage, regarding it as a waste of time, but he was eventually persuaded by his brother-in-law, Josiah Wedgwood II, to agree to and fund his son's participation!
Darwin was only 22 in 1831 when he clambered aboard the H.M.S. Beagle and set sail on what would actually turn out to be a five-year voyage around the world, taking in the coastlines of South America, Australia and Africa.
On his travels Darwin gathered data obsessively, wherever he went, collecting whatever he could find and continually refining his theory.
He also continued his adventurous eating by snacking on armadillo, ostrich and puma, which he described as tasting remarkably like veal!
When he arrived home in 1836, he set to work on developing his ideas and by 1839 had come to a complete theory of evolution.
But it would be another 20 years before he published this because of concerns about public acceptance of his radical ideas.
1839 was also an important year for Darwin for other reasons – he got married!
But he definitely had a hard time deciding if marriage was for him.
Using his tried and tested rational thinking even in matters of the heart, Darwin wrote a list on the pros and cons of marriage to help him decide!
In the pros column he wrote “children,” “constant companion (and friend in old age)…better than a dog anyhow” and “someone to take care of house.”
In the cons side he wrote: “freedom to go where I want” “conversation of clever men at clubs” and “loss of time.”
Not on Darwin’s list, however, were family ties because the woman he married in 1839 was none other than his first cousin, the lovely Emma Wedgwood.
After 20 years of waiting and marriage, Darwin finally seized his opportunity to bring his ideas to the wider public and in 1858, he published his theory for the first time, followed by his full-length work, The Origin of The Species a year later.
And, the rest, as they say, is history!
Here are 3 lessons you can learn from one of
history's greatest scientists to evolve your learning:
"I love fools' experiments. I am always making them."
Darwin was the ultimate experimenter and spent years at home and abroad testing his ideas about the natural world. Whenever he had an idea, however foolish, he'd get straight to work and see if it held up against the evidence.
The only way you'll ever find out if something works is by trying it. Whether it's a new learning technique you want to apply, or a new skill you want to pick up, set a constrained period of time to test and measure the results.
"In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."
Darwin was writing up his theory of evolution in 1858 when Alfred Wallace sent him an essay that described the same idea. Instead of trying to compete with Wallace, Darwin suggested they publish their theories together.
Our natural instinct is to compete but this isn't always the best option. Look for opportunities to collaborate with others in learning projects that can benefit you both, rather than just trying to beat the person next to you all the time.
"I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men."
Darwin knew that his theory of evolution would face a lot of resistance from the religious community. And despite delaying the publication of his theory, he never lost the courage of his convictions. He knew he was onto something.
There's a difference between blindly persisting with something that's clearly not working and sticking to your guns when you're on the right track, like Darwin did. Your task in every part of life is to learn the difference and act accordingly!
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