Charles Darwin’s enthusiasm and expertise in natural history contributed hugely to his elucidation of evolution by natural selection, which stands as one of the grandest intellectual achievements in the history of science. Darwin was a lifelong observer of nature, stating in correspondence that some of his happiest times in youth were spent fishing on rainy days and “entomologizing” when England’s weather was nice. At the age of 22, he boarded the HSM Beagle for a 5-year stint as Captain Fitzroy’s traveling companion and the ship’s naturalist, an appointment that introduced him to biodiversity on a global geographic scale. Darwin’s breadth and depth of natural-history experience would later be on full display in his most defining scientific works (Darwin, 1859, 1868a, 1871/1959) and also in his detailed treatises on coral reefs (Darwin, 1842), barnacles (Darwin, 1851b), insectivorous plants (Darwin, 1875a), orchids (Darwin, 1877b), and earthworms (Darwin, 1881).
The year 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his most influential publication (Darwin, 1859). Darwin transformed the biological sciences in much the same way that Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton, centuries earlier, transformed the physical sciences—by demonstrating that the universe operates according to natural laws that fall within the purview of rational scientific inquiry. In 1543, Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium celestium (“On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”) which challenged conventional wisdom that the Earth was the center of Creation, and instead promoted the idea that natural laws govern the