The Voyage of the Beagleby Charles Darwin
The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip - of his biological and geological observations and/i>/i>
"I hate every wave of the ocean," the seasick Charles Darwin wrote to his family during his five-year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. It was this world-wide journey, however, that launched the scientist’s career.
The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip - of his biological and geological observations and collection activities, of his speculations about the causes and theories behind scientific phenomena, of his interactions with various native peoples, of his beautiful descriptions of the lands he visited, and of his amazing discoveries in the Galapagos archipelago. Although scientific in nature, the literary quality rivals those of John Muir and Henry Thoreau.
About the Author:
Charles Darwin is the author of one of the most controversial and influential works in Western thought, The Origin of the Species (1859). At age twenty-two, Darwin, who had dropped out of medical school in Edinburgh, became the gentleman companion (and only secondarily, naturalist) to the moody, irascible Captain Robert FitzRoy. Although his father had wanted him to become a pastor, Darwin’s journey on the H.M.S. Beagle led to him instead becoming the forerunner of evolutionary theory.
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Read an Excerpt
Charles Darwin, at age 22, had by 1831 rejected careers in both medicine and the clergy when he was offered the position of naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, a 90-foot sloop charged with charting South American waters. He was not the first choice for the job. His father stood in his way. Even the ship's captain was uncertain about him. Yet he made it onto the Beagle, and this five year voyage, he later wrote, was the most important event of his life and shaped his entire career.
This was a return trip to South America for the Beagle and Darwin left the placid landscape of England to journey to a land of dynamic terrain: high mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, strange coastlines and even stranger animals and fossils:
"Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a grand scale: the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, a distance of 1,200 miles, has been raised in mass...What a history of geological changes does the simply-constructed coast of Patagonia reveal!...At Port St. Julian , in some red mud capping the gravel on the 90-feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrauchenia Patachonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a camel. It belongs to the same division of the Pachydermata with the rhinoceros, tapir, and palaeotherium; but in the structure of the bones of its long neck it shows a clear relation to the camel, or rather to the guanaco and llama. From recent sea-shells being found on two of the higher step-formed plains, which must have been modelled and upraised before the mud was deposited in which the Macrauchenia was entombed, it is certain that this curious quadruped lived long after the sea was inhabited by its present shells."
Darwin spent thousands of hours making observations, collecting specimens, and recording data. He went ashore all along the South American coasts, often riding horseback into the interior in order to collect more data, and he also includes his observations about the people whom he met there, from army generals to local Indians. And of course, he visited the now famous Galapagos Archipelago, the 10 islands formed by volcanic action where Darwin noticed that several species of finches existed, with beak shapes that were vastly different. He thought deeply about the comment made by the vice-governor that there were many different varieties of tortoises to be found on the island, and came to the conclusions about evolution he later elaborated upon in his Origin of Species:
"It was most striking to be surrounded by new birds, new reptiles, new shells, new insects, new plants, and yet by innumerable trifling details of structure, and even by the tones of voice and plumage of the birds, to have the temperate plains of Patagonia, or rather the hot dry deserts of Northern Chile, vividly brought before my eyes. Why, on these small points of land, which within a late geological period must have been covered by the ocean, which are formed by basaltic lava, and therefore differ in geological character from the American continent, and which are placed under a peculiar climate, - why were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated, I may add, in different proportions both in kind and number from those on the continent, and therefore acting on each other in a different manner - why were they created on American types of organization?"
The Beagle went back to England via Australia and New Zealand, and Darwin continued to collect specimens there as well. He left England as student with a keen and open mind; he returned an experienced scientist with definite ideas about the workings of nature, and raw data to substantiate his theories. He would go on of course to refine them and publish On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, that famous and still controversial book. The direction of Darwin's thought is clearly evident in The Voyage of the HMS Beagle, as well as his exuberance. This is the second edition of the book, originally published in 1845. Fascinating reading from a truly original mind!
Meet the Author
Charles Darwin was born in England in 1809 and attended the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. When he decided against that vocation, he enrolled at Cambridge where he earned a degree in theology. During an expedition to Africa and South America, Darwin continued his studies in natural science and began writing about his theories of natural selection. His work led to the publication of On the Origin of Species, a book that changed the world.
Charles Darwin: Original Thinking
Each generation of students comes to Darwin's epoch-making works, several of which are the basis of our publishing program in biology and related fields: The Essential Darwin, 2006; The Descent of Man, 2010; The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 2006; and On the Origin of the Species, 2006.
In the Author's Own Words:
"A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there."
"I feel most deeply that this whole question of Creation is too profound for human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton! Let each man hope and believe what he can."
"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
"Man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system — with all these exalted powers — Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." — Charles Darwin
- Date of Birth:
- February 12, 1809
- Date of Death:
- April 19, 1882
- Place of Birth:
- Shrewsbury, England
- Place of Death:
- London, England
- B.A. in Theology, Christ¿s College, Cambridge University, 1831
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