Charlie Darwin’s Gone to Sea

Once upon a time, in a land across the sea, there lived a curious young man. His name was Charlie.

Charlie loved collecting things. Everywhere he went, he would find things to take home with him. Sometimes he found feathers, other times he found shells.

Charlie’s father was a doctor, and he wanted Charlie to be a doctor too. He took Charlie to see his all of his patients, before sending Charlie to the best medical school in the land.

Charlie did not like medical school. It was not for him. He would stare out the window and think of the forests, meadows and streams, and all the neat things living there.

Charlie met many interesting people at school. Johnny was very smart, and showed Charlie how to collect more things, and how to take care of them. Robert took Charlie to the beach, and showed him all of the incredible invertebrates living there (an invertebrate is an animal that doesn’t have a spine).

Charlie’s father heard that he did not like medical school, and so he moved Charlie to a new school to become a priest. Charlie missed his friends, but his cousin Willy was there! Willy showed Charlie how to collect beetles. Charlie made new friends and was very happy at his new school. There were lots of interesting classes about the wonderful world around them!

One day, Charlie got a letter from his good friend and teacher, Mr. Henslow.

Mr. Henslow wanted Charlie to go on a trip on a ship called the HMS Beagle, to keep the ship’s captain, Rob, company. Charlie’s father did not like the idea of his son going away for so long, but Charlie’s uncle convinced him that Charlie would learn a lot seeing the world.

Charlie sailed around the world for five years with Captain Rob aboard the Beagle. Charlie found many interesting things, and often sent them home along with his notes (there was not enough room on the ship to carry all of his finds). He especially loved to find fossils!

Fossils are the preserved remains of animals that died a long, long time ago. Most fossils take at least ten-thousand years to form properly. Charlie loved fossils because they belonged to animals that no one had seen before, such as ground sloths and anteaters the size of horses.

Eventually Charlie journeyed home. He said a fond farewell to Captain Rob and the HMS Beagle, and went to see his family. They were very happy to see him! There was also another letter from Mr. Henslow; he had shown Charlie’s letters to a few other scientists, and they were all eager to meet him!

Charlie traveled the land meeting new people and telling them about his adventures. Many agreed to help him describe all the new animals and plants in his collection. There was a lot of work to be done, as Charlie had sent home over 5000 specimens!

For the next 20 years, Charlie wondered. At breakfast he wondered why there were no more ground sloths. At lunch he wondered why birds on different islands looked similar but different. And at dinner he wondered how the farmers were able to raise plumper pigeons and tastier turnips each year.

Eventually, Charlie had an idea. It was a very simple idea, but it was very different from what everyone else believed in at that time and place. He thought that plants and animals could change over time. All organisms (the sciencey word for living things) have traits. A beetle’s colour is a trait. Some traits help the organism survive better than if they had other traits; a green beetle can hide in the grass easier than an orange beetle. Eventually, there would be more green beetles than orange beetles, because hungry birds would find the orange beetles more easily and gobble them up.

Charlie called this idea Natural Selection. He even wrote a book about it: The Origin of Species. His idea turned how we look at the world upside down, and his book is still one of the best-selling science books ever written.

Once upon a time, in a land across the sea, there lived a curious young man. His name was Charles Darwin, but his friends call him Charlie.

Darwin Portrait collage by Laura Ulrich (Monsters and Molecules)

I hope you liked today’s story. Eventually I want to start writing children’s science books. I have even started to teach myself Javascript in the hopes of making them as interactive-story-book-apps!

CharlesDarwinSFUT_LauraUlrichI made Darwin’s portrait in Illustrator, creating 96 different organism vectors in the process.
It was awarded 2nd place in the 2015 SFU Biology Tshirt Design Contest. You can get yourself a shirt at SFU’s 2016 Winterfest! Beyond that, I believe they can be bought through the SFU Biology Student Union.

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