I can't let this day pass without paying homage.

The 19th century was the most transformative of human history. No century ever ended more differently than it began, and one of the reasons for that great seismic shift in human thinking was this good man.

Never did so gentle a soul ignite such a wild revolution.

He never wanted to be a radical. Darwin left his theory of evolution unpublished for almost 20 years because he was afraid that it would do exactly what it DID do — namely, cause a fight between religion and science that still hasn't ended. His own beloved wife, when he first brought her the idea, burst into tears and asked, "Does this mean we won't meet our dead children in heaven, after all?" Painful question to ask one who was so kind and humane, and who had almost become a minister himself.

When I think of Darwin, I think of his brilliant prose (a novelist's prose, as Alma noted in The Signature of All Things) but I also think of his deep goodness, his battles with depression, his utter devotion to science. He spent his life in study of the natural world, and his projects consumed his entire home, his entire life. The entire family participated in his experiments. His young children played their bassoons to his earthworms, to see if the creatures responded to vibration.

My favorite story: One of Darwin's daughters went to a visit a friend's house one day, looked around at her playmate's home and asked, "But where does your father do his barnacles?"

THAT was a Victorian, my friends.

Happy birthday, sir.

Liz and Alma

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall