Darwin Family

On Sunday February 1809 a second son was born to the Darwin family who lived near Shrewsbury, on the English border with Wales. They named the boy Charles Robert. Charles was to become a famous naturalist, one of the greatest scientists of all time.

The Darwins’ home was called The Mount and it overlooked the River Severn. Here young Charles grew up, with his older brother Erasmus and sisters Marianne, Caroline and Susan Elizabeth.

Emily Catherine, the little sister, was just a year younger than himself. The children’s mother, Susannah, was often unwell and kept to her bed. Her poor health was a great worry to her husband Robert, who was a wealthy doctor. Charles admired his father, not least because of his size. Dr. Darwin stood 1.9 meters tall and weighed over 150 kilograms. He was, Charles later claimed, the biggest man he ever saw.

Both his mother and father came from distinguished families. His mother was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the famous pottery manufacturer. His father was the son of Erasmus Darwin, a respected scientist, inventor and writer. As he grew older, Charles felt that he had a lot in common with his grandfather Erasmus. Both were fascinated by the natural world, especially the variety of living things. Erasmus had written a book suggesting living things change or evolve.


In the Darwin’s residence, the older girls played a large part in running the household and in looking after the younger children. In later years, Charles could remember little of his mother, who died when he was eight. Caroline was the best scholar among the girls, so she took charge of her younger brother and gave him lessons. However in the household – the mount – any trouble which would occur, Caroline was always sure that Charles was to blame.

Kindness, for which Charles remembered his sisters, was considered of the greatest importance in the Darwin family. Charles was brought up to be kind not only to people, but also to animals. Josiah Wedgwood in particular had encouraged his children to have humanitarian ideals. Above all, he hated slavery and supported anti-slavery movements.
Charles loved to Hunting, Shooting and Fishing because it required him to go outside and observe living organisms. At the same time he'd also note down all his observations on a notebook.

Charles loved nothing better than to be outside, in the gardens at The Mount or beyond in the woods and fields. He’d collect a pocketful of ‘specimens’: stones, leaves, insects, flowers and much more. Remembering his sister’s kindness, Charles preferred to collect only dead insects. After doing it for many times, Charles could identify most of the plants and insects. He found a way to kill insects painlessly, using a mixture made from laurel and oleander leaves. He’d also name each specimen he found.

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