There is no doubt that Charles Darwin is one of the greatest icons of science. Not only has he impacted science, but his presence transcends time. Even today, he has his face on the 10-pound note, has a college named after him at Cambridge, and is the focus of countless movies. Given all of this, his mass popularity begs the question, what makes Charles Darwin such a likeable figure even outside of the world of science? Why is he so often romanticized? Is this at all related to him being considered a revolutionary and being a part of our “revolutions” lecture series?
Prior to this lecture, I knew a little bit about Charles Darwin, however I wasn’t too familiar with the specifics of his life or how much he actually accomplished during his time on this earth. For example, I was unaware of the fact that Darwin came from a family of money and as a result, he was able to turn his private home into a laboratory where he could pursue his passions. The fact that he was able to completely dedicate his life to his true love of science (in my mind) is what makes him so likeable among the people of today. It is rare that today people attack their passions and dive in to them as fully as Darwin did. This may be due to personal financial problems, or simply mentally being unable to dedicate the full amount of energy required.
During the lecture, I was drawn to the likeness between Darwin and another famous revolutionary- Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. (I was drawn to make this connection because I spent last fall studying abroad in Cuba, so when I hear the term revolutionary, my mind automatically drifts there.) I think this is a fitting comparison because both had similar experiences which led them to their work. Both came from financially secure families, and were driven to do more with their lives, they both embarked on large journeys which altered their views of the world, then they used these journeys to create change in the world that we still feel today. More generally, I feel as though the lives of both have been romanticized and they will go down in the annals of history as essential figures.
I think part of what makes Darwin (and also Che) “unforgettable” is the fact that he lived his life to the fullest. While this is the goal of many people, I do not believe that it is the case for many people. It is not common for a person to find as much success as Darwin found while doing something that you are truly passionate about. It is almost as though Darwin was a precursor for the entrepreneurs of today that found tech companies and make billions of dollars by building an app that solves the world’s problems.
In any event, the characteristics that were found in Darwin have been found in many people who were/are revered by humanity as “revolutionaries,” but more than that as great humans. His legend will live on.