Most striking of all, though, was what I learned about the man himself. My impression had always been one of the intrepid explorer, circumnavigating the globe, and hopping between the inhospitable Galapagos islands with notebook in hand. In fact, whilst this is true of the first few years of his research, the vast majority of the rest of his life was spent working at home in the confines of Down House and its gardens, nursing his recurrent episodes of ill health, sending off for books and journals by post, and perhaps most importantly of all doting on the family he loved.
Alongside his famous On the Origin of Species, one of his other most influential scientific works was on the subject of earthworms, research which can’t often have drawn him much further than a few yards from his own back door. And this allowed him to spend time with his wife and children, to whom he was a loving and indulgent husband and father, often at odds with the more stringent etiquettes of his time.
It is striking how much of Darwin's scientific work was done in his own home, in part due to him being more invalided than many people realize. More than 40 diagnoses have been offered, including an inherited mitochondrial disorder Chronic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), Crohn's disease, and--a diagnoses prominently mentioned at least once in the modern educational displays curated at Down House--Chagas Disease, tropical parasitic disease Darwin would almost certainly have acquired from a bite from the so-called "kissing bug" of the Triatominae family.
(Image: Darwin's study in Down House by Scott Isebrand; click to enlarge.)