Skip to page content

Cambridge

Darwin studied theology at Cambridge University but also spent much time developing his passion for natural history.

Christ's College, Cambridge University

Christ’s College, Cambridge. © David Leff

In 1827, Darwin enrolled at Christ’s College, Cambridge University where he studied theology for just over three years.

During his time at Cambridge, Darwin continued to enjoy the countryside and spent much time with his cousin, William Fox, who introduced him to beetle collecting. He also became friends with William Paley, who promoted natural theology, and the geologist Adam Sedgwick.

In his last two terms Darwin spent much time with the Rev John Henslow, a professor of botany, and became known as ‘the man who walks with Henslow’.

Darwin window, Christ’s College. © John van Wyhe

It was Henslow, himself restricted by family commitments, who recommended Darwin as a suitable companion and naturalist for Captain FitzRoy on the Beagle expedition.

Darwin lived in the same first floor rooms in College from late 1828 until he graduated in 1831.

Today, the College Hall has a portrait of Darwin and a stained glass window depicting him.

A large bronze bust by William Couper, presented by an American delegation in honour of the centenary of his birth, is displayed in the Shrine in the college grounds.

Darwin bust, Christ’s College. © John van Wyhe

Sidney Street

Darwin only moved up to Cambridge early in 1828, and at first lived in lodgings above a tobacconist’s in Sidney Street.

This site is now occupied by a branch of Boots The Chemists and there is a plaque on the building to commemorate Darwin’s stay there. He later moved into rooms in one of the college’s courtyards.


Sidney Street, Cambridge. © David Leff Plaque on Sidney Street, Cambridge. © David Leff

Fitzwilliam Street

Years later, after he returned from the Beagle voyage in 1836, Darwin revisited Cambridge many times. Needing time to sort his specimens from the voyage, he rented a house in Fitzwilliam Street for a few months, which can now be identified by a stone plaque.

Fitzwilliam Street, Cambridge. © David Leff Plaque on Fitzwilliam Street, Cambridge. © David Leff

Darwin College

Founded in 1964, Darwin College caters for graduate students. The main college building originally belonged to Charles’ son George, and was then passed on to his son, Sir Charles Darwin, who died in 1962.

 

‘There is grandeur in this view of life... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’ Charles Darwin