Charles Darwin was the epitome of the Victorian gentleman amateur scientist, living entirely off inherited wealth and the income from his books. At the same time, however, he was the most professional scientist of his day.
Darwin’s life is full of contrast. In his youth, he seemed likely to become a wastrel, yet he became a hard-working and renowned scientist. His family life in a small Kentish village was mostly idyllically happy; but the loss of his favourite daughter, Annie, brought him intense misery that lasted long after her death. Darwin shunned publicity; but he became the most famous scientist of his time, for an idea which shook the foundations of Victorian society.
Even today, some people reject his idea – evolution by natural selection – without bothering to find out what Darwin said. But it is one of those great achievements of the human intellect with which everyone should be acquainted.