Roots of Charles Darwin's creativity.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


Many concerns contributed to the creative success of Charles Darwin's theorizing, including his humble character, reading Wordsworth, courting Emma for his wife, and considering the origins of creative thought in a material mind. Creativity is not straightforward; in Darwin's case, it was fed by diverse interests, literary sensitivities, character traits, unusual introspection and even thoughts of marriage. During the time frame of this study, the two important years between his return from the Beagle and his Malthusian insight that led to natural selection, Darwin twice read The Excursion and fell in love. While he thought hopefully of Emma, he was focused on reproduction to understand species transmutation and pondered evolved roots for emotions like love, thus linking his sexual and creative stimulation. Part of his drive to succeed was for Emma's approval, to be a victorious naturalist and demonstrate that he would be a good provider. Emma appreciated Darwin's humble character, a trait that also allowed him to question belief systems and intellectual conceits that restricted other naturalists. Darwin noted that many of his peers were blocked from understanding species transmutation by their intellectual vanities--like the idea that man was the crown of creation instead of just one species in nature's panoply. In the intellectual culture of Darwin's time creationism was science, while scientists competed with poets for authority over explaining nature. Wordsworth epitomized creativity while asserting that The Excursion's themes were man, nature and human life--parallel to Darwin's. Wordsworth's insights into human emotions, morality and creativity were important to Darwin, who needed to explain all human traits, physical, emotional and mental, as evolved from simpler animals. Darwin reflected on the roots of imaginative thought and proposed a process for thinking that he applied it to his own theorizing; from nascent generation of ideas through rigorous dialectic testing to solid conclusions, thus demonstrating thoughts in competition. The strong correlation between the productivity of Darwin's theorizing and his humility, poetry, Emma and considerations of creativity, offers new insights into the path of his theorizing, and perhaps into the origins of creativity itself.