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Charles Darwin - a genius remembered


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Charles Darwin was one of the most influential scientists of his time, whose observations changed the way in which life itself was understood.

Darwin Darwin aged 31. He was already acclaimed as one of Britain's greatest scientists.
 When Charles Darwin died in 1873 at the age of 64, the scientific world recognized that it had lost one of its greatest thinkers, and Darwin was buried among the illustrious in Britain's burial-place of honour, Westminster Abbey in London. Darwin, biologist, botanist, and geographer, was a scientist whose name is usually placed on a level with the men like Copernicus and Einstein, men whose perseverance and convictions led them to see great new truths, to understand whole new domains of existence.
   Yet Darwin did not invent: he did not even propose a totally new theory* : but by years of careful observation, painstaking study, and analogical deductions, he managed to formulate in a coherent and scientific fashion, a theory which rapidly gained credence as the correct, or basically correct explanation of the diversity of life on our earth.
    It was in November 1859 that Darwin published his fundamental work, The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection.
   Charles Darwin was born into a family of thinkers. His father was a Fellow of the Royal Society (the elite circle of top British scientists), his mother was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the man who founded the famous Wedgwood Potteries, and his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a famous physician, radical thinker and philosopher who, like his grandson, spent much time studying the evolution of life.
   After a childhood in the town of Shrewsbury, where he was educated at the Grammar School, Darwin went up to Edinburgh University to study medecine and natural history. When he was eighteen, he left Edinburgh and went to Cambridge University, planning to enter the church: but he was more interested in science than in religion and in the end he abandoned theology.
  Shortly after graduating from Cambridge, he got a job as a naturalist on the ship H.M.S. Beagle, which was about to start on a scientific and cartographic survey of the South American coast. The journey started in December 1831 and was to last almost five years, during which time he amassed considerable documentation.
  Darwin was particularly struck by the fauna of the south seas, notably by the tortoises he found on the Galapagos Islands, a group of Pacific Islands where nature seemed different from nature in other lands. The Galapagos tortoises, Darwin observed, differed from island to island, and this, he deduced, implied different forms of evolution, since the animals obviously came from the same origins. Darwin was also struck by the iguanas he found, and observed that those which lived in water had heads suitable for finding food among stones, whilst those that lived on land had a sharper profile, more fit for a herbivorous animal.
   Darwin developed his theory of evolution, but it was not until 1859 that he actually published it. It was instantly seen as a great milestone in scientific thought, and precipitated violent argument all over Europe. Many found fault in it, and Darwin spent the rest of his life modifying aspects of his theory in the light of other people's observations. He also wrote a dozen or so other books on aspects of botany and biology, including his Descent of Man (1877). The debate has continued ever since; contested for a while in the Soviet Union, because of its anti-egalitarian implications, Darwinism, or Neo Darwinism (Darwinian theory modified by Mendelian genetic theory) is now accepted by almost every scientist.

DARWIN'S THEORY – IN BRIEF

Darwin noted that in any species, no two examples are identical. There are always great or small differences between specimens: he also observed, like Malthus, that in all living species, some specimens reach maturity, others do not ("the survival of the fittest"). From this he concluded that life evolves along different lines in different circumstances, according to what is fittest in each particular situation. He called this the principle of natural selection. He confirmed it by personal observation of artificial selection, the way animal or plant breeders produce new varieties by carefully selecting and breeding specimens which show the desired qualities. Neo-Darwinian theory applies principles of genetics to explain the inequal transmission of hereditary features from one generation to the next.


WORDS

painstaking : taking great trouble - coherent : logical - physician : doctor (do not confuse with physicist) - were prevalent : prevailed, were greater - graduate : finish one's studies - cartographic : map-making amass : collect - fauna : animals, etc - struck : impressed - milestone : turning point, moment - fit : adapted to the circumstances, and/or healthy - breed : produce (animals, plants) - feature : characteristic.
 
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STUDENTS' WORKSHEET - interactive

Darwin - a genius remembered

Text study.
Replace the word-endings that are missing from the following extract
Darwin, biolog, botan, and geograph, was a scient whose name is usu placed on a level with the men like Copernicus and Einstein, men whose persever and convict led them to see great new truths, to understand whole new domains of exist.
   Yet Darwin did not invent: he did not even propose a total new theory* : but by years of care observ, painstak study, and analog deduct, he manag to formul in a coher and scient fash, a theory which rapid gained cred as the correct, or basic correct explan of the divers of life on our earth.

Questions and answers:
Using the prompts given, imagine six questions that you might have liked to ask Darwin if you'd been around in 1860, and imagine his answers using information from this article or other sources. For the questions, keep your language simple. The answers can be as long as you like, and the answer boxes will expand to take as much text as you enter.

1. What
Darwin :
2. Where
Darwin :
3. How
Darwin :
4. Why
Darwin :
5. Do
Darwin :
5. Have 
Darwin :

Teachers:

Listening and remembering. This is a concluding exercise designed to check that students have both understood and remembered the text, after going through it in class or on their own. Play the following extract to your class, stopping the audio at each , and asking students to remember how the sentence continued.
  If you think there are too many markers, break the audio only before words or expressions highlighted in yellow, which  concern structures and grammar, rather than information or vocabulary. Sometimes you may need to help students by providing the next word.

Shortly after graduating from Cambridge, he got a job as a naturalist on the ship H.M.S. Beagle, which was about to start on a scientific and cartographic survey of the South American coast. The journey started in December 1831 and was to last almost five years, during which time he amassed considerable documentation.
  Darwin was particularly struck by  the fauna of the south seas, notably by the tortoises he found on the Galapagos Islands, a group of Pacific Islands where nature seemed different from nature in other lands. The Galapagos tortoises, Darwin observed, differed♦  from island to island, and this, he deduced, implied♦  different forms of evolution, since the animals obviously came  from the same origins. Darwin was also struck by the iguanas he found, and observed that  those which lived in water had heads suitable  for finding food among stones, whilst  those that lived on land had a sharper profile, more  fit for a herbivorous animal.
   Darwin developed his theory of evolution, but it was  not until 1859 that he actually published it. It was instantly seen as a great milestone in scientific thought, and precipitated  violent argument all over Europe. Many  found fault in it, and Darwin spent the rest of his life modifying aspects of his theory  in the light of other people's observations.

Technical English
Though this is not a technical text, it employs many of the lexical features of technical English. The blank-fill exercise on endings highlights the use of derived words. In the section on Darwin's Theory - in brief, note the use of quantifiers and articles, and in particular the absence of articles before generalisations, principles and processes.

Other language points
Some other points that teachers might like to explain to students.
More grammar : For a clear presentation of English Grammar, discover A Descriptive Grammar of English, published by Linguapres, and available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon worldwide.

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This text :
Level - Advanced
CEFR  LEVEL :  C2
IELTS Level : 8
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Grade level: 14.4


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