- Events sorted by day of the month:
Darwin moved into 12 Upper Gower Street, London (just a few
blocks from Regent's Park). His servant, Syms Covington, helped
him move all his belongings. After a few days the house looked
like a cluttered museum of natural history.
This was a big day for Darwin. Today he gave his first speech
before the Royal Geological Society in London. He was very
nervous! All the experts in geology were there and this was
Darwin's big chance to prove himself to his peers. The topic
of his paper was on the gradual raising of South America over
eons of time. He concluded that as land masses raise upward,
the nearby ocean floor subsides, and that the animals on the
raising continent somehow or another adapt to these very slow
changes (at this time Darwin had no idea how this happened).
This theory represented a shift away from Lyell's theory which
stated that animals cannot adapt, but rather die out and are
replaced with new species. This was one of the earliest signs
that Darwin was beginning to develop his own theories, going
beyond his mentors. The speech, by the way, was received very
well by nearly all the geologists there.
The ship arrived at the port of Santa Cruz, Tenerife Island.
The crew was prevented from going ashore due to a cholera
outbreak in England. They would have to wait out a quarantine
period of twelve days but Capt. FitzRoy would not be delayed
and gave orders for the ship to proceed. Darwin was devastated
at missing the chance to see the island of his dreams, and
watched Tenerife fade off into the horizon.
Impressed with Joseph Hooker's work on the Tierra del Fuego
plants, Darwin took a giant risk and confided in him about
his transmutation theories. Hooker's reaction was one of guarded
enthusiasm, but he was eager to hear more about it. Darwin
was pleasantly surprised.
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Sydney Harbor, Australia.
Darwin rented a small parcel of land from his neighbor, John
Lubbock. On this 1.5 acre strip of land he created his famous
"Sandwalk" which was to become his thinking path
during his morning and afternoon strolls.
Emma and Darwin had another son, Leonard Darwin. Darwin now
felt quite well, but he continued his water treatments in
the backyard, just to be on the safe side.
Proofs of "Descent of Man" were edited and sent
to John Murray.
The Beagle arrived at Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands,
and anchored at Porto Praya. Darwin went ashore and explored
for a few days. Here he made his first "discovery,"
- a horizontal white band of shells within a cliff face along
the shoreline about forty-five feet above sea level. The cliff
face was at one time under water. Darwin wondered how it ended
up forty-five feet above the sea? He noted that the line was
not even horizontal, but varied in height. This supported
Lyell's theory of a world slowly changing over a great period
of time. The ship stayed at the island for twenty-three days.
Darwin started on a 130 mile inland trip to Bathurst, New
South Wales. Along the way he made observations of the wildlife
and was so astonished by the creatures he saw (namely, the
odd-looking platypus) that he surmised there must have been
a separate creation just for these odd creatures. On his return
he visited Capt. King, the commander of the first Beagle surveying
voyage. He was now living on his farm just outside Sydney.
He took his final exam and passed with very good scores! The
exam covered such topics as Homer, Virgil, Paley's Moral and
Political Philosophy (good scores here), Locke's Essay concerning
Human Understanding (did well here, too), mathematics (did
not do so well), physics and astronomy (also, not very good).
He came in 10th place out of 178 students who passed the exam.
George Mivart, a self taught zoologist and anti-evolutionist,
brought up the "half a wing is useless" argument
against natural selection. This argument was presented in
his book: "On the Genesis of Species". The book
was essentially a tactical strike against the theory of natural
selection. The major argument Mivart presented was one against
transitional forms. For example, if a species of lizard was
on the road to evolving the ability of flight, what good would
half a wing do for the lizard? Since an animal cannot fly
with half a wing it was folly to imagine a long series of
transitional steps towards flight. Darwin became quite upset
with Mivart, not because of his objections to his theory,
but because of the venomous manner in which Mivart put forth
his objections and his attacks on Darwin's colleagues.
A mission was started at Woolya Cove just off the Beagle Channel
in Tierra del Fuego. Revd. Richard Matthews and three anglicized
Fuegians stayed behind to run the mission (their names were:
York Minster, Jemmy Button and a female named Fuegia Basket).
Small huts were built and gardens planted, and much cargo
and provisions were left with them. On the way back east along
the Beagle channel Darwin marveled at the snow, glaciers,
and icebergs. After nine days they returned to the mission
and found the place looted by the native Fuegians. Darwin
had doubts that savages like these could become civilized.
Richard Matthews returned to the Beagle, leaving the three
Fuegians behind to run the mission on their own.
Darwin was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Charles Darwin married Emma Wedgwood at St. Peter's Church
at Maer. The newlyweds returned to London rather hastily,
making the guests quite upset. One possible explanation for
leaving early may have been that by now Darwin had developed
his fear of being in crowds of people for long periods of
After much editing, "The Variations of Animals and Plants
under Domestication" was finally published. It was a
beautiful portrayal of just how malleable species can be.
some time during this month:
Hooker read Darwin's 231 page essay on transmutation. He had
difficulty accepting the idea that new species were derived
from previous ones. He opted for a continual divine creation
of new species as others died out. Nevertheless, he pointed
out sections of the essay that needed clarification, and those
parts that were not easy to understand. After reading the
essay Hooker informed Darwin that he was planning a voyage
to the tropics. Being more dependent on Hooker than ever before,
Darwin did not like this plan one bit.
The repercussions of Origin of Species were mixed. Thomas
Huxley and Joseph Hooker thought very highly of it and soon
became stronger allies with Darwin. Huxley soon became a ruthless
defender of evolution, even going so far as to suggest that
mankind was a transmuted ape! Richard Owen was outraged by
the Origin. He saw the ideas expressed in the book as being
dangerous to society. He also thought the book left too many
unanswered questions, and worst of all it leaned natural science
away from its respectable position as an investigator of god's
creation. Most readers, however, simply did not understand
how natural selection worked. They could not see who or what
was doing the selecting. Many assumed god was the selector.
The journal, Natural History Review, was bought by Huxley
and other naturalists partial to evolutionary thinking. The
journal was used as a voice for Darwin supporters. The first
issue had an article by Huxley which described man's relationship
to the apes. He sent a complementary copy to Bishop Wilberforce,
just for fun. Over the next few months Huxley gave lectures
to the poor working classes on the evolution of man from lowly
apes. Such sermons appealed to the working class, as the idea
of man being a nobel creature made their meager existence
seem less harsh. Huxley was also getting into lively arguments
with Richard Owen over man's descent from an ape-like ancestor.
A lizard-bird fossil was discovered in Solenhofen, Germany,
and Richard Owen arranged to buy it for the British Museum.
During a speech to the Royal Society, Owen dubbed the fossil
"Archaeopteryx". Upon further examination it was
found that the Archaeopteryx fossil, while at first looking
like a bird, had many features found only in lizards (teeth,
a bony tail, etc.). The lack of fossil evidence for species
transmutation concerned Darwin a great deal, but he figured
that transitional fossils would eventually be found and the
Archaeopteryx fossil fit the bill quite nicely.
Darwin began to have more doubts regarding pursuing a religious
career. His studies were not going very well, and he was spending
too much time out in the countryside collecting beetles.
Darwin spent the winter writing a paper on South America,
and organizing his huge collection of specimens.
Emma started to become very worried about Darwin's salvation.
She was aware that his transmutation research was consuming
his thoughts and she feared it may lead him away from Christianity.
A few weeks later Syms Covington said farewell to Darwin and
headed off to Australia along with thousands of other British
citizens during this time. A gentleman by the name of Joseph
Parslow became Darwin's new servant, a position he would hold
for the next forty years.
Migraines, pains in the heart, nausea and stomach problems
started taking a heavier toll on Darwin. By now even a little
excitement in his life brought on illness, so he became more
and more of a recluse.
Darwin gave a new friend of his, Joseph Dalton Hooker, the
opportunity to examine and catalogue the plants he brought
back from Tierra del Fuego. Hooker showed great enthusiasm
in his work with the plants and this did not escape the attention
of Darwin, who at this time was looking for naturalists who
may be sympathetic to his revolutionary ideas.
The Mount, Darwin's childhood home, was sold. The building
still stands today, although it is now occupied by the District
Valuer and Valuation Officer, Shrewsbury.
"The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilized
by Insects" and "The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization
in the Vegetable Kingdom" were both published.
- Spring 1827
Robert Grant, a Scottish zoologist, became a very close friend
of Darwin. They would often go out on long walks together
at the Firth of Forth, an estuary just north of Edinburgh,
discussing marine life and collecting specimens. On these
walks Grant filled Darwin's head with evolutionary ideas,
especially those of Lamarck, whom Grant admired a great deal.
The biography of his grandfather titled, "Erasmus Darwin"
was published. Darwin had spent nearly six months working
or Spring 1839
Darwin began flooding animal breeders and farmers with a seemingly
endless barrage of questions about species variation and inheritance.
He compiled a list of twenty-one questions, written on eight
quarto pages. He wished to know, for example, if the characteristics
of hybrids are maintained in future generations, how cross
breeding effected the vigor of a species, and the results
of crossing wild types with established breeds. Unfortunately
the list of questions overwhelmed the breeders due to their
complexity and as a result very few of them responded.
Once again Darwin did not take his studies very seriously,
spending much of his free time collecting beetles, reading
Shakespeare, and having dinner parties with his friends.