Territory Stories






Charles Darwin University


Origins; E-Journals; PublicationNT




Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; This publication contains may contain links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.




Charles Darwin University; Universities and colleges; Education, Higher; Northern Territory; Darwin; Periodicals

Publisher name

Charles Darwin University

Place of publication



Edition no. 2

File type






Copyright owner

Charles Darwin University



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

In October 1859, aged 50, Charles Darwin published the epochal On the Origin of Species and more than a decade later Descent of Man. His theories on the unstoppable force of natural selection and the process of evolution were revolutionary. He changed accepted thinking about creation and sparked a seismic shift away from Victorian conservatism. His ideas became an impetus for social change on a larger scale. From initial public condemnation as The Devils Disciple, on his death on April 26 1882 Charles Darwin was described as the greatest Englishman since Newton. While Charles Darwin gets the accolades, he didnt work alone. Every step of the way he had a happy home life, substantial fi nancial resources and strategic family connections. Most signifi cant was the moral, practical and intellectual support of his wife Emma Darwin (nee Wedgwood) and later his children. Emmas extensive diaries and letters provide intimate insights into Charles home and work environment. They help contextualise his thinking and add richness to the picture we have of his life and ideas. Importantly, they celebrate the generally unacknowledged role that Emma Darwin played in his work. Born in 1808, Emma was the youngest of eight children to Josiah Wedgwood of Maer (in Staffordshire) and Elizabeth Allen. She had a happy privileged childhood. Her mother was clever, beautiful, cheerful, practical, caring and giving, traits that Emma inherited. Both had a radiant cheerfulness and a singular sweetness in voice and manner.In both there was the same delight in giving and the same unfailing consideration for the unprosperous. Emma developed formidable organisational abilities under a veneer of steely determination fused with an unfussy way of taking life. She managed her large household including a dozen live-in servants, her seven children, visiting relatives and a stream of Charles associates and admirers with grace, good humour and military precision. She also provided Charles with emotional and intellectual support. Emma and Charles were fi rst cousins and had known each other since childhood, sharing the same grandparent Josiah Wedgwood (1730 to 1795) from the now famous Wedgwood pottery family. During the Beagles epic voyage (1831 to 1836) the pair corresponded occasionally, but his romantic interests lay elsewhere. When he returned to England, Charles Darwins work turned the world upside down, but it is doubtful he would have achieved so much without his gifted and able wife, Emma, alison elliott argues. The unstoppable force of Emma Darwin above Emma Darwin, reproduced with permission from John van Wyhe ed., The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (http://darwin-online.org.uk/) 34 SYMPOSIUM Origins

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain the names, voices and images of people who have died, as well as other culturally sensitive content. Please be aware that some collection items may use outdated phrases or words which reflect the attitude of the creator at the time, and are now considered offensive.

We use temporary cookies on this site to provide functionality.
By continuing to use this site without changing your settings, you consent to our use of cookies.