The Effect of Social Circle on the Life Charles Darwin

The effect of Social Circle on the life Charles Darwin

Henslow, Sedgwick, Lyell, Hooker and Huxley.

Qazi Wahaj ul Haq

“I see daily more and more plainly that my unaided Book would have done absolutely nothing.” Charles Darwin to Thomas Henry Huxley, 20 July 1860.

Charles Darwin was arguably the greatest scientist of the nineteenth century. His idea of evolution, along with his geological and botanical work, forever changed the way the history of the earth would be written and theories about the earth formed. However, every scientific idea and indeed every scientist develops in a specific intellectual context and personal community. These ‘social circles’ or ‘networks’ that the scientist develops in are fundamental to not only understanding the theories themselves but crucial in order to understand the formation and dissemination of those theories. Given a figure like Charles Darwin, who largely kept out of the public eye whether on a voyage around the world or in his well-hidden Down house, these social circles become even more necessary because the only ways to reach the scientist are through other people. Indeed, “the theories which would shake the world of academic scientists were developed not in the cloistered calm of university libraries but in his own house and garden, albeit with the indispensable expert advice he constantly sought from established scientists.”[1] Thus, the purpose of this essay would be to explore the social circle of Charles Darwin via certain personalities in order to fully understand the formation and dissemination of his theories.

Before we begin we must define this ‘social circle’ that we intend to study. In defining our social circle, I take it to be an approach to the study of relationships of influence which connect members of a group or network. However, Darwin’s intellectual and technical influences were of course many from the uniformitarian Lyell to the natural theologian Paley to the technician who taught him...