Illustration by Joe Ciardiello By Adam Gopnik Smithsonian Magazine Subscribe February We are all pebbles dropped in the sea of history, where the splash strikes one way and the big tides run another, and though what we feel is the splash, the splash takes place only within those tides. In almost every case, the incoming current drowns the splash; once in a while the drop of the pebble changes the way the ocean runs. On February 12,two boys were born within a few hours of each other on either side of the Atlantic. One entered life in a comfortable family home, nicely called the Mount, that still stands in the leafy English countryside of Shrewsbury, Shropshire; the other opened his eyes for the first time in a nameless, long-lost log cabin in the Kentucky woods.
Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year, on the same day: As historical facts go, it amounts to little more than a footnote. Still, while it's just a coincidence, it's a coincidence that's guaranteed to make you do a double take the first time you run across it.
Everybody knows Darwin and Lincoln were near-mythic figures in the 19th century. But who ever thinks of them in tandem? Who puts the theory of evolution and the Civil War in the same sentence? Why would you, unless you're writing your dissertation on epochal events in the 19th century?
But instinctively, we want to say that they belong together. It's not just because they were both great men, and not because they happen to be exact coevals.
Rather, it's because the scientist and the politician each touched off a revolution that changed the world. As soon as you do start comparing this odd couple, you Lincoln and darwin there is more to this birthday coincidence than the same astrological chart as Aquarians, they should both be stubborn, visionary, tolerant, free-spirited, rebellious, genial but remote and detached—hmmm, so far so good.
Two recent books give them double billing: Both lost their mothers in early childhood. Both suffered from depression Darwin also suffered from a variety of crippling stomach ailments and chronic headachesand both wrestled with religious doubt.
Each had a strained relationship with his father, and each of them lost children to early death. Both spent the better part of their 20s trying to settle on a career, and neither man gave much evidence of his future greatness until well into middle age: Darwin published "The Origin of Species" when he was 50, and Lincoln won the presidency a year later.
Both men were private and guarded. Most of Darwin's friendships were conducted through the mail, and after his five-year voyage on HMS Beagle as a young man, he rarely left his home in the English countryside. Lincoln, though a much more public man, carefully cultivated a bumpkin persona that encouraged both friends and enemies to underestimate his considerable, almost Machiavellian skill as a politician.
It is a measure of their accomplishments, of how much they changed the world, that the era into which Lincoln and Darwin was born seems so strange to us now.
On their birth date, Thomas Jefferson had three weeks left in his second term as president. George III still sat on the throne of England. The Enlightenment was giving way to Romanticism.
At the center of what people then believed, the tent poles of their reality were that God created the world and that man was the crown of creation. Well, some men, since the institution of slavery was still acceptable on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line—it would not be abolished in New York state, for example, untiland while it had been illegal in England sinceit would not be abolished in English colonies until And Darwin, at least at the outset, was hardly even a scientist in the sense that we understand the term—a highly trained specialist whose professional vocabulary is so arcane that he or she can talk only to other scientists.
Darwin, the man who would almost singlehandedly redefine biological science, started out as an amateur naturalist, a beetle collector, a rockhound, a year-old rich-kid dilettante who, after flirting with the idea of being first a physician and then a preacher, was allowed to ship out with the Beagle as someone who might supply good conversation at the captain's table.
His father had all but ordered him not to go to sea, worrying that it was nothing more than one of Charles's lengthening list of aimless exploits—years before, Dr.
Darwin had scolded his teenage son, saying, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.
Darwin was also in the grip of an idea so subversive that he would keep it under wraps for another two decades. But the crucial thing is that he did all this by himself.Darwin and Lincoln are admirable and in their way even lovable men. But Lincoln, we have always to remember, was a war commander, who had men shot and boy deserters hanged.
We would, I think, be. Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were both born on February 12, By the end of the nineteenth century, they stood as skyscrapers of world thought . On February 12, , two of the most revolutionary men of the 19th century were born.
Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin had a lot more in common than a knack for growing epic beards. How's this for a coincidence? Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year, on the same day: Feb.
12, As historical facts go, it amounts to little more than a footnote. Two men—born the same day. Both changed the nature and course of history significantly!
Discover some amazing facts and utilize those thinking skills with this interesting comparison study! How's this for a coincidence? Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year, on the same day: Feb.
12, As historical facts go, it amounts to little more than a footnote.