- Events sorted by day of the month:
A proposal was put forth to admit Charles Darwin as a Fellow
of the Royal Geological Society.
Darwin left Buenos Aires amid much civil unrest in the city
and boarded a packet ship to join the Beagle at Montevideo.
While at Ilkley Spa Darwin received an early copy of his book,
"On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection".
The title for "Origins" went through a few changes
while it was being written:
-- An Abstract of an Essay on the Origin of
Species and Varieties through Natural Selection.
-- On the Origin of Species and Varieties by means of Natural
-- On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection.
The "X Club" was founded. During this time the church
was moving quickly to shore up their defenses of biblical
creation and the fixation of species. Radical naturalists,
and those already in the transmutation camp, joined forces
to counter the church move. They met at the St. George Hotel
in London and formed a dining club they called the "X-club".
Their purpose was to meet and discuss pure science without
the intrusion of the church or any religious views. They met
on the first Thursday of every month. The club existed from
November 1864 to 1892. Many members of the club had power
inside the Royal Society of London. The nine members of the
X-Club were -- Joseph Hooker - Director of the Royal Botanic
Gardens at Kew in 1865. Thomas Huxley - Professor of natural
history at the Government School of Mines in London. William
Spottiswoode - Owner of Eyre and Spottiswoode; the Queen's
printers. Edward Frankland - Professor of chemistry at the
Royal Institution. John Tyndall - Professor of Natural Philosophy
at the Royal Institution. George Busk - Retired surgeon for
the British Navy. Major contributor to many scientific societies.
Sir John Lubbock - Knighted in 1865. Had wealth and influence
in London society. Thomas Hirst - Professor of Mathematics
at University College, London. Herbert Spencer - Not very
active in the X-Club. He lived off inheritance from his family
and book royalties.
The journal "Nature" was founded by Joseph Hooker
and Thomas Huxley as a voice for the X-Club. 130 years later
the journal "Nature" is one of the most popular
and well respected science journals in the world.
Darwin began his second year of medical school at Edinburgh,
but now he was alone; his brother, Erasmus, having left Edinburgh
for London to study anatomy. Darwin spent a lot of time at
the university museum, taking notes on the plants and animals
on display there. He also joined the Plinian Society during
this time and often attended their scientific debates. These
debates were perhaps his first exposure to anti-Christian
sentiments. The topics of these debates centered upon the
merits of scientific investigation stemming from a an examination
of natural causes rather than divine intervention. Darwin
also attended Professor Robert Jameson's lectures on Geology,
and ironically he found himself dreadfully bored with the
subject, and vowed never to read or study geology again.
H.M.S. Beagle picked up Darwin (now in much better health)
and headed south to survey the Chronos Archipelago and the
waters around Chiloe Island. Darwin went on a little excursion
on the island, hoping to do some geology, but he was not very
impressed. The Beagle next surveyed up the coast to the town
After spending a week with his fossil specimens at the Royal
College of Surgeons, Darwin headed to Shrewsbury for a ten
day visit. He also went to see his uncle Josiah at Maer Hall,
and to Overton to visit his sister, Marianne, and her husband,
Henry Parker. While visiting Maer Hall, his uncle suggested
to Darwin that he should publish a book of his five year voyage
around the world.
Charles Darwin proposed to Emma Wedgwood at Maer Hall. Everyone
at the house was overjoyed, especially the Wedgwood ladies.
The next day Darwin went to Shrewsbury to tell his father
and sisters, all of whom were extremely happy for him. Arrangements
were made for Darwin and Emma to receive a ú5,000 dowry,
plus ú400 a year from Josiah Wedgwood II, along with
ú10,000 from his father, Dr. Robert Darwin, which would
be invested for the newlyweds. Now Darwin could look forward
to not having to work for a living; giving him plenty of free
time for his book writing and transmutation research. To get
an idea of how well off Darwin and Emma would be, it may be
useful to consider the average yearly wages for certain occupations
during the Victorian era - Wealthy merchant or banker - ú10,000
a year Physician or lawyer - ú1,500 a year Civil servants
- ú500 a year Assuming the ú15,000 they received
was invested wisely (most of it was) and brought in an annual
yield of 10%, they could expect an annual income of about
ú2,000 a year. While this may not seem like a lot today,
in the 1830's this amount was considered a small fortune.
A forth group of specimens was shipped to Cambridge. This
load consisted of about two-hundred animal skins, some mice,
a jar of fish, insects, rocks, seeds, and of course his big
collection of fossils and geological specimens.
Dr. Robert Darwin died at The Mount, Shrewsbury. Darwin was
so ill at the time he could not attend his father's funeral.
The 2nd edition of "Descent of Man" was published.
Darwin, having become totally hooked on fossil collecting,
explored the Mercedes region of Uruguay where he was told
very large specimens could be found. Flooding of the rivers
caused much delay, requiring travel by horseback instead of
by boat. On the way back to Montevideo he found the head of
a fossilized Toxodon, a hippo-like animal. He also found a
few other fossil remains near by.
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Tahiti, approximately 3,200 miles
from South America. They remained at Tahiti for ten days and
during this time Darwin went on a two day inland expedition
an was awed by the glorious tropical vegetation. He was also
impressed with the good work the missionaries had done with
the Tahitians, who Darwin had a very high regard for.
Darwin received an honorary Doctorate of Law from Cambridge
University. This was one of the proudest moments of his life.
"Origin of Species" went on sale to the public today
at a price of 15 shillings. 1,250 copies were printed, most
of which sold the first day. It was an immediate success and
Darwin started the same day editing the work for a second
Darwin sent his second load of specimens and notes to Revd.
Henslow. This collection consisted of the teeth of a Cavia
(a large rodent-like creature), the upper jaw and head of
a large animal (perhaps a Megatherium), the lower jaw of another
large animal, some rodent teeth, several marine shells, an
odd looking bird, some snakes and lizards, a toad, many crustaceans,
dried plants, fish, some seeds, and naturally lots and lots
He was now back at Montevideo. Ironically, Darwin could not
wait to get back onboard the Beagle even if it meant becoming
Charles Darwin received the Royal Medal of the Royal Society,
the highest honor the society could bestow on a scientist.
The medal was awarded for his three volume work on the geology
of the Beagle voyage, and for his barnacle research currently
in progress. Darwin leaped for joy at this news and was very
proud that his peers had come to esteem his work so highly.
Darwin was awarded the Copley Medal; the highest honor bestowed
by the Royal Society. Busk and Falconer, both members of the
X-Club, nominated him. Awarding the Copley Medal to Darwin
caused much anger among the older Fellows of the Society,
most of whom wanted Adam Sedgwick to get the award. It was
agreed upon to give Darwin the medal, but only if it was explicitly
stated that his "Origin of Species" book was not
a contributing factor in their decision. Awarding the Copley
Medal to Darwin was a sign of how influential the X-Club had
become in Royal Society politics. Darwin was naturally very
pleased. As was suspected, the Church of England was not at
all happy with this turn of events.
some time during this month:
Hooker left for the tropics.
After all the marriage details were worked out, Darwin returned
to London and started house hunting. He continued working
with the variation of species and now saw that the methods
of nature and breeders were not all that different, but while
nature worked on millions of characteristics, breeders worked
on only a few. Both, however, weeded out undesirable traits.
At some time during this month Darwin severed his friendship
with Robert Grant, an old friend and teacher from his Edinburgh
days. Grant was very interested in looking over his specimens
of coral, but Darwin did not want his years of hard work tainted
by a radical evolutionist trouble maker. From this time forward
Darwin and Robert Grant parted ways forever.
Darwin gave a lot thought to how a bat's wings developed over
time and wondered what good half a wing would do. Perhaps
wings previously had a different function? Darwin also pondered
over fossil evidence for the transmutation of species. At
the time there were very few of them in the museums, but he
figured in the future enough would be found to provide evidence
for one species changing into another.
Darwin became consumed with barnacle research, and soon had
naturalists from all over the world sending him their collections
to examine. He toyed with the idea of publishing a grand work
on barnacles, as such a study was very much needed by the
scientific community. However, there were ulterior motives
for publishing such a treatise; Darwin felt that he needed
to establish himself as an expert on species variations before
he published his transmutation work, and the humble barnacle
would do the trick.
Darwin decided to no longer take the water cure in his backyard
An amazing 5,000 copies of "The Expression of the Emotions
in Man and Animals" were sold by this time.