Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 - 19 April 1882) was a British naturalist who achieved lasting fame by convincing the scientific community of the occurrence of evolution and proposing the theory that this could be explained through natural and sexual selection. This theory is now considered the central explanatory paradigm in biology.
He developed an interest in natural history while studying first medicine, then theology, at university. Darwin's five-year voyage on the Beagle and subsequent writings brought him eminence as a geologist and fame as a popular author. His biological observations led him to study the transmutation of species and, in 1838, develop his theory of natural selection. Fully aware that others had been severely punished for such "heretical" ideas, he only confided in his closest friends and continued his research to meet anticipated objections. However, in 1858 the information that Alfred Russel Wallace had developed a similar theory forced early joint publication of the theory.
His 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (usually abbreviated to The Origin of Species) established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, continued his research, and wrote a series of books on plants and animals, including humankind, notably The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
In recognition of Darwin's pre-eminence, he was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to William Herschel and Isaac Newton.