- Events sorted by day of the month:
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at the Falkland Islands at Port Louis.
The British Navy had just taken over the islands from Argentina
last January. A lot of surveying work was done here. Darwin
was intrigued by the fossils on the islands and decided to
do comparative studies between all the fossils, plants and
animals he collected during the voyage.
Anne Elizabeth Darwin was born.
The Beagle arrived at King George's Sound at the town of Albany,
about 250 miles south-east of Perth, Australia. They remained
there for eight days, and Darwin found the place a most absolute
bore. He went on a few inland excursions, but was not very
impressed with the landscape.
Darwin left Cambridge and moved in with his brother in London.
Over the next few weeks his brother, Erasmus, introduced him
to London's more influential scientific elite's. One of these
elite's was Charles Babbage, the inventor of the "difference
engine" - the first calculating machine, and forerunner
of modern computers. Babbage introduced Charles Darwin to
the idea that everything in nature worked according to specific
laws. This idea prompted Darwin to seek out the natural laws
which governed the transmutation of species.
At long last Darwin completed his Coral Reefs book. He then
went to Shrewsbury, hoping the escape from London would do
his health some good. His plan was not successful, however.
An old Beagle companion, Bartholomew Sulivan, recommended
to Darwin that he should try Dr. James Gully's Water Cure
spa as a treatment for his illness. The theory behind taking
the water cure was that the immersion of one's body in cold
water drew the blood away from the inflamed nerves of the
stomach, thus calming the nerves and eliminating any problems
in that area. Darwin studied up on the subject and thought
it was pure nonsense, but he went anyway. The whole family
packed their bags and moved up to Great Malvern for a two
month stay. They took rooms at The Lodge on Worcester Road
just outside of town. Darwin was put on a daily routine that
went as follows: get up early in the morning for a walk, have
breakfast, get scrubbed with a cold wet towel for a short
time, walk for twenty minutes and wear a cold wet towel compress
all day long. After a short afternoon dinner, take a nap,
get another cold water bath and scrubbing, and then go for
another walk, finishing off with supper at 6:00. He also took
homeopathic medicines, of which Darwin had no faith in what-so-ever.
Darwin worked out another Andes expedition while in the town
of Santiago. The Beagle returned south to Concepcion and was
engaged the next few months in investigating the effects of
At 4:00 AM Darwin started out on his Andes expedition with
a Spanish speaking guide and many mules to carry provisions.
He had doubts about making it to the top of the Andes due
to snow blocking the mountain passes. He headed towards the
Portillo Pass; one of the two clear routes to the Andes during
this time of the year.
Darwin passed his "little go" exam at Cambridge.
He was tested on translating Greek and Latin text (barely
squeaked by), questions on the gospels (did fairly well with
this), and on Paley's Evidences of Christianity (he shined
here, having a great fondness for Paley's logic and simple
Annie's illness flared up again, and Darwin took his daughter
to stay at Gully's Water Cure spa in Great Malvern. They stayed
at Montreal House on Worcester Road. Initial treatment seemed
to do much good for her.
Darwin gave his first scientific speech at a meeting of the
Plinian Society. The subject was his discovery that the larva
of sea-mats can swim, and that the tiny black specks inside
old oyster shells were skate leech eggs. Not the most earth
shattering discovery, but it was a start for Darwin.
There was a new curiosity at the London Zoo and Darwin went
out to have a look. It was an orangutan named Jenny. He was
fascinated by this orangutan and spent many an hour observing
it. Jenny, it seemed, displayed emotions in the same manner
as a human child. Darwin was fascinated!
some time during this month:
& April 1831
Darwin started thinking about settling down in a nice countryside
parish as a clergyman with ample time to ramble about the
countryside collecting bugs and plants. He read Paley's "Natural
Theology," Sir John Herschel's book, "Preliminary
Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy" and gained
a burning zeal for science. Another book he read had a strong
influence on his life; it was Alexander von Humboldt's 7-vol.
"Personal Narrative" of his South America adventures.
Now Darwin began dreaming about the glorious tropical rain
forests. Revd. Henslow suggested that he should go off and
explore in the tropics for a short time.
"Descent of Man" was published. The two volume set
was reasonably priced at just twenty-four shillings. It was
an immediate success just like "Origin of Species".
Unlike Origin, however, Descent of Man produced hardly any
outcries from the church, and very few criticisms from fellow
naturalists. The critiques that did surface were fairly light
- admitting that humans had evolved to some degree, but standing
firm on the belief that the soul of man was divinely created.
For the past few months John Gould, an ornithologist at the
London Zoo Museum, had been examining the birds Darwin brought
back from the Galapagos Islands. Gould quickly discovered
that the birds were not finches, blackbirds, wrens, and gross
beaks as Darwin thought, but were in fact all distinct species
of finches. Upon further examination Gould saw that the major
distinction between the finches was the shape of their beaks.
Darwin now had an exciting mystery on his hands. How did an
original population of finches from the mainland migrate to
the Galapagos and then change into several species? Unfortunately,
Darwin did a very poor labeling job on the birds for he did
not think that noting what island they were found on was important.
Over the next few months he got in touch with other Beagle
crew members who had also collected birds at the Galapagos,
and luckily many of them had labeled which island their birds
were taken from. Armed with his new finch location data, Darwin
saw that each species existed its own island, somehow filling
some kind of island niche.
Darwin discovered a very odd barnacle in which the female
of the species had microscopic male counterparts which acted
as parasites attached to the female. Darwin was fascinated
by this curious union. How did it come to be?
Darwin moved out of his brother's place and took up residence
nearby in 36 Great Marlborough Street. Syms Covington stayed
on as his servant. During this month Darwin began to have
doubts about the idea of new species coming about by a series
of miraculous creations, and he was starting to question Paley's
"argument from design" thesis. Based on his observations
during the Beagle voyage, Darwin saw that some new theory
of speciation was needed. This was to become his quest, to
discover the process by which new species come to exist.
He started his "C" notebook which focused mainly
on transmutation, the distribution of species, the relation
between habit and structure, and behavioral adaptations. The
manner in which Darwin gathered information for this notebook
was rather clever. He fired off a list of questions to pigeon
breeders, dog breeders, experts on animal husbandry, and a
host of other animal experts. The questions centered on how
they bred animals and the results they got from different
kinds of crosses. In a time when the subject of variation
of species was taboo, this was a "harmless" way
to gather information that may support the theories he was
Joseph Hooker spent a great deal of time reading over Darwin's
to April 1847
Darwin was by this time continuously ill.
Darwin purchased a 325 acre farm in Lincolnshire as an investment
for about ú12,500. It was called Beesby Farm, and was
located thirty miles directly east of Lincoln, about three
miles north from the village of Alford.
One of the mysteries Darwin thought a lot about was how species
spread to other land masses - particularly islands like the
Galapagos. One of the popular explanations at the time was
the "sunken land bridge" hypothesis of Edward Forbes.
Darwin had doubts about land bridges in the middle of the
ocean, and set out to show that plants and animals could "float"
their way to distant lands. He experimented with plant seeds,
soaking them in sea water for up to months at a time, and
then planted them. To the surprise of his fellow naturalists,
nearly all of them germinated! He then corresponded with inhabitants
of far off islands, asking them to examine the shoreline for
any seeds or plants not native to the island. He was surprised
to find that in some cases seed pods had floated thousands
of miles across the ocean to the shores of distant islands.
Darwin also recruited the help of British survey vessels -
asking them if they ever noticed floating "land rafts"
with animals on them, and this too was confirmed.
By this time the chapter on natural selection was about 65%
complete. The book had grown to ten chapters and Darwin feared
it may end up being a huge volume that no one would ever take
the time to read.