Charles Robert Darwin, the father of evolution and modern genetics, was born on this day in 1809. In 1831, Darwin left for an epic 5-year voyage on the HMS Beagle to South America and the Gal‡pagos Islands, where he began to formulate his theory of evolution. In 1859, he published The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In his 1871 work, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, Darwin argued that humans evolved just like other organisms. The idea shocked many faithful who believed in the biblical account of creation and stirred up a controversy that continues to this day.
[Source: Roy Porter, Ed., The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists (Oxford University Press, ed. 2, 1994).]