Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin is a historically significant figure throughout many fields of scientific study.  He is most well-known for his theory of natural selection, however, Darwin’s research extended beyond the physicality of biology and geology.  The psychological school of functionalism was founded around Darwin’s research and evolutionary theory, and applied his theory about the evolution of physical characteristics to psychological characteristics.  Darwin also conducted some of the first research on infant and child development and published his findings in an article entitled, A Biographical Sketch of an Infant.
Darwin assembled a case study through carefully recorded naturalistic observation of his own children throughout their infancy.  Darwin analyzed both physical and cognitive developments, noting the sequence of development of innate reflexes, visual acuity, musculoskeletal control, emotions, communication, and personality traits.  He compared his analysis to another researcher’s case study and, although he made no conclusions, many of his hypotheses were later expanded and remain central to many theories of child development.
Darwin’s case study, although thorough and detailed, only sampled his own children and experiences and compared his findings to one other researcher who had done the same.  This small sample population cannot give a full picture of infant development, but his descriptive research paper laid a foundation for future psychologists to build on.
 
Darwin, C.  (1877).  A biographical sketch of an infant.  Retrieved from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Darwin/infant.htm
Stangor, C. (2010). Introduction to psychology. Irvington, NY: Flat World. Knowledge, Inc.

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