Born in 1809 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, Darwin was fascinated by the natural world from a young age. Growing up he was an avid reader of nature books and devoted his spare time to exploring the fields and woodlands around his home, collecting plants and insects.
In 1825 Darwin enrolled in medical school at the University of Edinburgh, where he witnessed surgery on a child. Surgeries at the time would have been carried out without the use of anaesthetic or antiseptics, and fatalities were common.
Watching this procedure left Darwin so traumatised that he gave up his studies without completing the course. He then went to Cambridge University to study theology.
He was recommended by one of his Cambridge professors for the role as naturalist and companion to the ship's captain, Robert FitzRoy.
The journey would change both his life and the trajectory of Western scientific thinking.
Darwin explored remote regions and marveled at a world so different from the one he knew. He encountered birds with bright blue feet, sharks with T-shaped heads and giant tortoises.
On his travels Darwin collected plants, animals and fossils, and took copious field notes. These collections and records provided the evidence he needed to develop his remarkable theory.
Darwin returned to England in 1836. A highly methodical scholar, constantly collecting and observing, he spent many years comparing and analysing specimens before finally declaring that evolution occurs by a process of natural selection.