Darwin
Circa 1875: British naturalist and writer of The Theory Of Evolution Charles Robert DarwinGetty

International Darwin Day marks the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on 12 February 1809, to inspire people to reflect on the advancement of science, education and human curiosity that the evolutionist embodied.

Celebrations of the English naturalist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, have taken place since his death in 1882.

On the 206th anniversary of Darwin's birth, IBTimes UK looks at facts about one of the most influential figures in history.

Marriage

Darwin married Emma Wedgwood on 29 January 1839, but he didn't have to look far to find his life partner as she was his first cousin. The couple married at St Peter's Anglican Church in Maer in Staffordshire and her cousin, the Reverend John Allen Wedgwood, officiated. The Darwins had 10 children in total, but two died in infancy and a third child, their daughter Annie, passed away aged 10.

Wedlock pros and cons

At a young age, Darwin made a list of the positives and negatives of marriage. Pros included companionship – a wife was "better than a dog anyhow" – and cons included less reading time in the evening.

Emma Wedgwood
Circa 1890: Emma Darwin, née Emma Wedgwood, the wife and cousin of the English naturalist Charles DarwinGetty

Slavery

While traveling on the HMS Beagle, Darwin saw the atrocious consequences of human slavery at first hand – which he considered dire injustices of human rights. Some believe Darwin published On The Origin Of Species partly to encourage the abolition of slavery.

Seasick

Darwin was blighted with seasickness for the entirety of his great voyage on board the Beagle. He was unable to keep food down and was forced to lie down for the first few weeks of the journey, reading travel books and deliberating on whether he had made the right decision to travel.

Buddhism

Darwin wrote widely about the emotional bonds between humans and the similarities between humans and animals. According to some scholars, passages in which the scientist addressed compassion and morality show he may have been influenced by Tibetan Buddhist texts.

HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan
HMS Beagle in the Straits of MagellanWiki Commons

Christianity

For most of his life, Darwin was a conventional Christian and studied at the University of Cambridge to become an Anglican clergyman – shortly before the Beagle voyage. Later in life, Darwin described himself as an agnostic.

Poor health

Darwin's health was constantly compromised by an uncommon combination of symptoms, some of which appeared to follow stressful situations – which has led some psychologists to diagnose anxiety and panic disorders or agoraphobia.

Others have suggested chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn's disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder. "Even ill-health, though it has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement," he once said.

Tortoise
Darwin drank fluid from the bladder of a tortoise in the Galapagos IslandsReuters

Family

Of his surviving children, George, Francis and Horace became Fellows of the Royal Society, distinguished as an astronomer, botanist and civil engineer. Another son, Leonard, was a politician, economist and a mentor of the evolutionary biologist Ronald Fisher – who Richard Dawkins named "the greatest biologist since Darwin".

Delayed publication

Darwin deliberately delayed the publication of On The Origin Of The Species for more than 20 years after he was convinced of his theory, because he was nervous about the reception of the research.

Strange culinary tastes

During his time at Cambridge, Darwin belonged to a group called the Glutton Club, whose members would meet each week to try exotic dishes unknown to the human palette. When aboard the Beagle, Darwin ate armadillos, which he said "taste and look like duck". In the Galapagos, he drank fluid from the bladder of tortoises, which he described as "very slightly bitter".