Fossils, Finches, and Fuegians: Darwin's Adventures and Discoveries on the Beagle

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"A colorful and lively account of this history-making scientific adventure."--Kirkus Reviews

When Charles Darwin, then age 22, first saw the HMS Beagle, he thought it looked "more like a wreck than a vessel commissioned to go round the world." But travel around the world it did, taking Darwin to South America, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and of course the Galapagos Islands, in a journey of discovery that lasted almost five years. Now, in Fossils, Finches and Fuegians, Richard Keynes, Darwin's great grandson, offers the first modern full-length account of Darwin's epoch-making expedition. This was the great adventure of Charles Darwin's life. Indeed, it would have been a great adventure for anyone--tracking condor in Chile, surviving the great earthquake of 1835, riding across country on horseback in the company of gauchos, watching whales leaping skyward off Tierra del Fuego, hunting ostriches with a bolo, discovering prehistoric fossils and previously unknown species, and meeting primitive peoples such as the Fuegians. Keynes captures many of the natural wonders that Darwin witnessed, including an incredible swarm of butterflies a mile wide and ten miles long. Keynes also illuminates Darwin's scientific work--his important findings in geology and biology--and traces the slow revolution in Darwin's thought about species and how they might evolve. Numerous illustrations--mostly by artists who traveled with Darwin on the Beagle--grace the pages, including finely rendered drawings of many points of interest discussed in the book. There has probably been no greater or more important scientific expedition than Darwin's voyage on the Beagle. Packed with colorful details of life aboard ship and in the wild, here is a fascinating portrait of Charles Darwin and of 19th century science.

"Handsomely illustrated with sketches and paintings made by Darwin and others associated with the Beagle, this is an excellent introduction to the events that led 20 years later to On the Origin of the Species."--Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A colorful and lively account of this history-making scientific adventure."—Kirkus Reviews

"Handsomely illustrated with sketches and paintings made by Darwin and others associated with the Beagle, this is an excellent introduction to the events that led 20 years later to On the Origin of the Species."—Publishers Weekly

"There is a real need for an account like this that brings together all aspects of the Beagle voyage in chronological order, and which adds (as this does) information from the archival records that is interesting and relevant, while still letting Darwin's pleasant character and his animated appreciation of what he was seeing emerge. Scrupulously balanced, accurate, and informative, this book reads wonderfully well." —Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: Voyaging and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

"Altogether, Keynes has succeeded in providing a rich and even sumptuous perspective on one of the great scientific adventures shaping the modern age. This is a story to which everyone can relate—a story that portrays an amiable and industrious young man who increasingly surprises himself (and us all) by his remarkable ability to ask the right questions, and ultimately to relate the disparate facts of a humble observer to a grand and revolutionary vision of the evolution of life on earth. Keynes's fascinating account of Darwin's Wanderjahre, and the momentous consequences of this youthful adventure for the history of science, is a real winner." —Frank J. Sulloway, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives

"An absolutely splendid read that is at once engaging and informative, filled with the minutiae of science history not found anywhere else, as well as the biggest ideas in all of science. Evolutionary theory is one of the half dozen most important ideas in the history of western thought, and Keynes brings to light the fermentation of Darwin's vision of that dangerous idea during his five-year voyage." —Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and the author of The Borderlands of Science and In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace

Publishers Weekly
Most accounts of Charles Darwin's epochal voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836 concentrate on the month he spent in the Gal pagos Islands in the fall of 1835, where he made the observations of finches, mockingbirds and turtles that would play such an important role in his theory of natural selection. Here Darwin's great-grandson, editor of his Beagle diary, takes readers on the scientist's complete circumnavigation of the globe. Darwin spent many months on the east coast of South America and down in Tierra del Fuego, where he honed his observational skills. Many readers will be surprised to learn that Darwin was as interested in geology as he was in biology; he correctly surmised that the coast of Chile had become elevated by thousands of feet over millennia. He also collected remains of previously unknown prehistoric animals and plants. Darwin's notes and letters, copiously quoted here, show him to have been a keen observer of people as well, whether native peoples he encountered or gauchos, rebellious South American generals or escaped convicts in New Zealand. He even had a brief meeting with royalty in the person of the queen of Tahiti. Keynes shows readers how his great-grandfather's belief in the immutability of species slowly began to change during his travels. Handsomely illustrated with sketches and paintings made by Darwin and others associated with the Beagle, this is an excellent introduction to the events that led 20 years later to On the Origin of Species. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Keynes has written a comprehensive and detailed account of Charles Darwin's five-year (l831-36) global voyage of discovery as a young naturalist aboard the survey ship H.M.S. Beagle. (For a recent complete biography, refer to Janet Browne's impressive two-volume Charles Darwin.) Keynes presents Darwin as an emerging scientist in both geology and biology who, as an extraordinary individual, began to doubt the fixity of species. The author focuses on Darwin's own thoughts concerning the geological formations of and fossil remains in South America, the prehistoric inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, and the unusual animals on the Gal pagos Islands. Of special interest are the insights that Keynes offers into Darwin's social relationships with Capt. Robert FitzRoy and Gen. Juan Manuel de Rosas, as well as his indebtedness to Charles Lyell's dynamic ideas in historical geology. The book makes it very clear just how crucial Darwin's trip on the Beagle was to his later development of the scientific theory of organic evolution. It is greatly enhanced by helpful maps, recent photographs, relevant illustrations, and arresting color plates. Recommended for all academic and public natural history collections.-H. James Birx, Univ. of Montana-Western, Dillon Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Charles Darwin’s great-grandson retells the story of his famous voyage around the world. Keynes, who previously edited Darwin’s shipboard diary, draws on original sources to give the modern reader a clear outline of the HMS Beagle’s nearly five-year voyage. He begins in 1835, when Darwin was fresh out of Cambridge and supposedly destined for a career in the church. Robert Fitzroy, captain of the Beagle, was looking for a geologist to accompany the ship on its mission to survey the coast of South America, and Darwin’s Cambridge professors were quick to recommend him. Recognizing a unique opportunity, the young man persuaded his reluctant father to allow him to make the voyage. Despite severe seasickness, he proved a vigorous and popular addition to the ship’s complement; his shipmates dubbed him "Philosopher." Keynes details the ship's travels along both coasts of South America to the Galapagos, across the Pacific to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, around Africa, and back to England after a final visit to South America. Darwin applied his sharp eye and discerning intellect to observations of his own kind as well as to the spectacular local flora and fauna, often with amusing results. His scientific discoveries (including several new species) and observations (especially in the Galapagos) laid the foundation upon which he built his theory of evolution; Keynes obligingly puts these in the context of Darwin’s entire career. In addition to his great-grandfather’s diary, Keynes cites an autobiography written for the perusal of his family, Fitzroy’s own diaries, and numerous other contemporary documents in both English and Spanish. Several evocative drawings and watercolors by ConradMartens, the Beagle’s official artist, are also reproduced here. Nothing can replace The Voyage of the Beagle, but Keynes provides a colorful and lively account of this history-making scientific adventure. (20 color, 109 b&w illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195166491
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/6/2003
  • Pages: 460
  • Product dimensions: 9.60 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Darwin Keynes is Former Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University and the editor of Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary.

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Table of Contents

List of Colour Plates
List of Maps
1 The Man who Walks with Henslow 1
2 The Strange Consequences of Stealing a Whale-Boat 22
3 Preparations for the Voyage 36
4 From Plymouth to the Cape Verde Islands 51
5 Across the Equator to Bahia 62
6 Rio de Janeiro 73
7 An Unquiet Trip from Monte Video to Buenos Aires 90
8 Digging up Fossils in the Cliffs at Bahia Blanca 99
9 The Return of the Fuegians to Their Homeland 115
10 First Visit to the Falkland Islands 133
11 Collecting Around Maldonado 143
12 A Meeting with General Rosas on the Ride from Patagones to Buenos Aires and Santa Fe 151
13 The Last of Monte Video 173
14 Christmas Day at Port Desire, and on to Port St. Julian and Port Famine 180
15 Goodbye to Jemmy Button and Tierra del Fuego 200
16 Second Visit to the Falkland Islands 215
17 Ascent of the Rio Santa Cruz 221
18 Through the Straits of Magellan to Valparaiso 229
19 Valparaiso and Santiago 238
20 Chiloe and the Chonos Archipelago 255
21 The Great Earthquake of 1835 Hits Valdivia and Concepcion 268
22 On Horseback from Santiago to Mendoza, and Back Over the Uspallata Pass 276
23 A Last Ride in the Andes, from Valparaiso to Copiapo 289
24 The Wreck of HMS Challenger 296
25 From Copiapo to Lima 303
26 The Galapagos Islands 307
27 Across the Pacific to Tahiti 331
28 New Zealand 341
29 Australia 347
30 Cocos Keeling Islands 357
31 Mauritius, Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena and Ascension Island 362
32 A Quick Dash to Bahia and Home to Falmouth 373
33 Harvesting the Evidence 379
34 Farewell to Robert FitzRoy 391
Epilogue 398
Notes 403
Index 415
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