George Darwin and The Theory of Moon Formation

Theory of Moon Formation

Darwin did to his sons what the composer Bach did to his. Even though the composer Carl Philip Emanuel Bach is relatively well known today, he pales in comparison with his father Johann Sebastian Bach. Few books have been as widely read or highly acknowledged as Darwin's "On the Origin of Species."  So it should come as no surprise to anyone why Charles Darwin's son George, isn't nearly as well known as his father is.

George Howard Darwin was born on 7-9-1845, and died on 12-7-1912. He was a great English astronomer and the son of Charles Darwin. George studied under Charles Pritchard, and then went on to study at Trinity College. He had a great love for science; in 1883 George became Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge. He had a great deal of interest in tidal forces. His love and interest in this field would eventually lead him to formulate the fission theory of Moon formation. In 1892, George won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. He would later serve as the president of this prestigious organization. George Darwin was acknowledged during his lifetime, however; Charles Darwin has become so famous amongst the scientific community, that many forget how great his son George was.

Theory of Moon Formation:

George Darwin believed in Newtonian theory which proposed that the Moon could have been much closer to the Earth at one point in time. Soviet and NASA tests later proved the theory by showing that the Moon was gradually moving away from the Earth. According to this theory; the Moon was spun as a result of a collision between a young Earth and a Mars size planet sometimes known as Theia. Sample of the Moon's surface have shown the Moon was once molten. Indirect evidence of this impact was later proven with rocks collected by the Apollo Moon landings. Samples of the Moon's crust gave rise to the idea that a large impact could have supplied the energy needed to form such a magma ocean. The Moon's small core has also helped in formulating and explaining this theory. The theory proposes the Moon could have formed from mantles of the Earth and Theia (also known as Orpheus and/or Hephaestus) after their impact/collision supposedly took place.

In the scientific community, Charles Darwin is still considered top dog (although Charles Darwin was actually a naturalist which is a bit different than a scientist which is what his son George was, but try to argue that with popular culture/society). Today, theories have vindicated George, who for years was thought of as a sort of pseudo-scientist, and nothing else.

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Comments 14 comments

Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

Ask_DJ_Lyons 5 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

John, I had never thought about Charles Darwin having a son. Silly of me, of course. It's just that the thought never occurred to me. It makes sense that he would have inherited some of his father's abilities and passions. This was very interesting. Thank you!

Best wishes,

Debbie aka DJ Lyons

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Thanks Debbie! Yes, I wrote this article with the sole purpose of getting people to know "The Other Darwin."

Take care,


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 5 years ago from New Jersey

Hi John,

That was very interesting. You have a wide range of interests! It must be difficult to be the child of a famous person in any field. You will either never live up to your parent's achievments, or nobody will ever hear of you, as with George. Society seems to equate brilliant, talented people with gods and forget they are human like us, having lives, families and such.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Hi Jean,

Yes, I do like a variety of things. You're right. When a person is famous, their children often try to live up to them and seldom can.

Thanks for reading my hub.

Take care,


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Hi John - You are so right that famous parents often result in quite accomplished children who labor largely in obscurity. Rather unfortunate for the poor children.

This was fascinating and of course I knew nothing at all about George Darwin or his accomplishments. Think I will include him the next time I teach History of Science. Thanks for a great Hub. Theresa Sharing.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Hi Theresa, you do too much honor. I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. I mentioned in the beginning of the hub how sometimes children of great men/women always live in their shadow. This happened with Bach's children, all of whom were musicians themselves; this happened with Darwin's son George.

Take care and thanks so much for stopping by


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

Your hub reminds me of one of my favorite joke. Why did Bach have soooo many children? His organ had no stops. LOL.

Seriously though, this is a very informative hub. I didn't realize there was a theory suggesting the moon was so close to the Earth. It is scary to think that moon is still moving away from Earth but any thing is possible. Great theories and a thought provoking hub.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Hi tammy, and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Yes, I first heard this on a radio station that I listen to in Los Angeles. The host is a renown astrophysicist and he invited someone who discussed George Darwin and I was fascinated by the discussion.

Thanks again and enjoy your day


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

Famous parents can seriously affect their children as their efforts are caped by the status of their parents,,

In the end they always end being their parents children... having no identity of their own.. in spite of their hard work!!

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Hi rahul, and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Yes, it seems as if many people have problems having successful/unsuccessful parents; I remember when I was small poor children in school lying about having wealthy parents. So you see my friend, the pendulum swings both ways.

Take care and thanks again for stopping by


dmop profile image

dmop 4 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

Fantastic information included here, I haven't heard about this theory before. It would be difficult to live up to the infamy of Charles Darwin, but it sounds like George made quite an impression as well. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Hi dmop, and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I heard this on a radio show. The show's host is himself a theoretical physicist and discussed this theory. I thought it was useful and decided to write a hub. This is one of the first hubs I wrote for HP

Thanks again and take care


Aquatic Guru profile image

Aquatic Guru 23 months ago from Goodspring, Tennessee

Hello John, Interesting theory there. I also read where some scientist had a theory about the moon being hollow at one time. They did an impact test to see if they could determine what the core of the moon was made of. They said the moon rung like a bell for a very long time. They later figured out it was because of a lack of water that caused the prolonged vibrations. Saturn V I think.

John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 23 months ago from Los Angeles, CA Author

Aquatic Guru, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Not sure if these tests have been done. I heard about George Darwin and was impressed with him, so decided to give him some much deserved airtime that his father seems to hog up....

Take care

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