Timeline for the life of Charles Darwin.
Engraving of Charles Darwin based on a photograph by Elliott & Fry (c 1880) (University of Bristol Library, Special Collections).
Born 12 February in Shrewsbury to Robert (son of Erasmus Darwin) and Susanna (daughter of Josiah Wedgwood).
Starts school. Mother dies.
Joins his older brother Erasmus as a boarder at Shrewsbury Grammar School. As a boy develops an interest in nature.
Taken out of school by his father because of his poor grades. Spends summer accompanying his father on his rounds (he was the town's leading physician). Joins Erasmus at the University of Edinburgh to study medicine.
Meets John Edmonstone, a freed slave from Guyana, who teaches him taxidermy. Joins the Plinian Society which debates natural sciences. Becomes friends with the zoologist Robert Grant.
Abandons his medical degree – the lectures were dull and the practical surgery was horrific. Enrolled at Christ's College, Cambridge to study for the clergy.
Takes up his place at Cambridge in January. Finds his studies no more suitable to his temperament than medicine. Enjoys collecting beetles, hanging out with 'a sporting set' and attending the lectures of John Henslow, Professor of Botany.
Peas and pods from Darwin's The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1868) (University of Bristol Library, Special Collections).
Ends his three-year romance with Fanny Owen. Henslow becomes his private tutor and mentor.
Graduates. Spends part of the summer in Wales with the geologist Adam Sedgwick. On Henslow's recommendation is appointed gentleman-naturalist (an unpaid post) on the survey ship Beagle under the command of Captain Fitzroy. Departs from Devonport Docks in Plymouth on 27 December for five-year voyage.
Ship reaches Brazil. Is appalled by the treatment of black slaves (his family were abolitionists) and falls out with FitzRoy over the issue. Sends his first collection of specimens back home to Henslow.
Becomes fascinated by fossils of dead species, comparing them to comparable creatures that still exist and realising that they are linked.
Contracts a serious fever during an overland exhibition – possibly the cause of his ill-health in later years.
Experiences an earthquake. Gathers evidence of the geological shifts in the earth's surface – another sign that life is not fixed. Spends time in the Galapagos Islands. Only later realises the significance of the variation in species between the different islands.
Studying islands in the Indian Ocean develops his theory of coral formation. Beagle docks at Falmouth 2 October. Arrives home, unannounced on the 4th. Starts classifying and distributing his specimens – 1,529 species preserved in spirit jars, 3,907 labelled "dry" items.
Gives his first talk at the Royal Geological Society. Based on his observations, he says that the changes in the South American landmasses over time must have meant that animals had had to also change in order to survive. Some people deny any change has taken place. Others, like the geologist Charles Lyell, say that the original species must have died out and been replaced by new species by God. Lyell becomes a close colleague of Darwin despite their differences. Darwin moves to London in March. Ornithologist John Gould alerts him to the significance of the Galapagos finches. They are proof that species are changed as a result of variations in the environment. Finishes writing up his Beagle journal.
First volume of Zoology of the Beagle is published. Busy filling notebooks with his observations and thoughts regarding transmutation (species change). Proposes marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgwood.
Marries Emma on 29 January 1839. His journal is published (Voyage of the Beagle). First son, William Erasmus, born in December.
Orchestia Darwinii from Darwin's The Descent of Man (1871) (University of Bristol Library, Special Collections).
Daughter Anne born.
Family moves to Down House, bought for him by his father, in Downe, Kent in September. Daughter Mary dies in October, a few weeks after her birth.
Daughter Katherine born. Fifth and final volume of Zoology of the Beagle published. Begins his long correspondence with his friend and colleague, the botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker.
In January writes to Hooker, telling him about his theory of transmutation. Says it is 'like confessing a murder' to say he believes that species can change. In September tells Emma about his theory – has avoided this because is worried her religious views will find it shocking.
Son George born. Revises Voyage of the Beagle to include a condemnation of slavery.
Buys a strip of land adjacent to his property which becomes the place where he takes a daily walk to think through his theory.
Daughter Elizabeth born.
Son Francis born. His father dies.
Family spends three months in Malvern where he undergoes water cure.
Son Leonard born.
Daughter Anne dies. Shakes what little remains of his religious faith.
Receives the Royal Medal from the Royal Society. Has developed an interest in pigeon breeding as part of his research on transmutation.
Invites four colleagues to Down House where he reads his draft paper on transmutation. Lyell encourages him to write up his work and publish it. The naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace is coming to similar conclusions and Darwin's friends do not want him to lose credit. Son Charles born.
Receives Wallace's paper on species variation. Lyell and Hooker arrange for a joint paper by Wallace and Darwin to be read at the Linnean Society. This is the first time Darwin goes public with his theory. Darwin does not attend as his infant son Charles has just died.
On the Origin of Species published. Sells out on day of publication and quickly reprinted.
At a stormy meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford, Darwin's supporters and detractors clash. Darwin's case is made by Hooker and T H Huxley. Darwin was not at the event himself.
Develops a passion for orchids and has a greenhouse built at Down House.
Receives the Royal Society's Copley Medal, its highest honour.
Writes autobiography which is published posthumously with a collection of his letters.
Receives an honorary doctorate from University of Cambridge.
His brother Erasmus dies.
Dies 19 April. Given state funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Sulky chimp from Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) (University of Bristol Library, Special Collections).