- Events sorted by day of the month:
Darwin was finally finished with proofs of the abstract amid
great illness. John Murray Publishers set a publication date
of late November.
H.M.S. Beagle finally arrived home after a voyage of four
years, nine months, five days. They docked at Falmouth, England,
at night during a storm. Darwin set off immediately for home.
Darwin began his "E" and "N" Notebooks.
The "E" book continued his transmutation ideas,
his thoughts on the population theory of Thomas Malthus, how
variation and adaptation are related, the rate of species
change, the separation of the sexes, and the differences between
selection by animal breeders and selection in nature. The
"N" Notebook continued the topics covered in "M"
but with fewer theoretical considerations and more definition
Darwin arrived at The Mount in the evening and found the family
was fast asleep. The next morning he strolled into the dining
room while his father and sisters were having breakfast. An
immediate pandemonium of delight broke out all over the house.
Much celebration commenced and a few of the servants became
drunk. After the house quieted down, Darwin spent the day
writing letters to all his friends and relatives. Charles
Robert Darwin, once an insecure college graduate, had become
a seasoned naturalist and a man at the start of a journey
whose conclusion would forever change the way humanity views
its place in the world.
Darwin returned to Cambridge for the fall term. He shifted
his focus away from beetle collecting and exerted a huge burst
of energy towards studying for his final exam. During this
time Revd. Henslow became his private tutor.
H.M.S. Beagle anchored at the northern tip of James Island.
Some of the crew went on shore and met up with a party of
Spanish settlers salting fish and extracting oil from tortoises.
Edward Chaffers, Charles Johnson (midshipman) and six others
set off on a boat to explore Bindloe, Abingdon and Tower Islands.
Charles Darwin was very anxious to go exploring so he, Syms
Covington (Darwin's servant), Benjamin Bynoe (acting surgeon)
and H. Fuller (Bynoe's servant) stayed behind on James Island.
The Beagle set sail for Chatham to get fresh water but the
currents slowed them down.
Darwin began working on part two of his Geological Observations
series - "Volcanic Islands".
Now back at Cambridge, Darwin spent all of his time studying
for the preliminary exams coming up in March.
Darwin went to Cambridge to see his friend Revd. John Stevens
Henslow. When he arrived he spent a long time talking with
Revd. Henslow about what to do with all his collections of
specimens. Later in the week he met with Adam Sedgwick and
they talked for hours on end about the geology of South America.
They surveyed north along the eastern shore of Albermarle
Island. At noon the Beagle took a detour to Punta Cordova
and picked up Darwin and the others left on James Island the
week before. In the afternoon they returned to Albermarle
Island and spent the night sailing north along the coast.
Darwin brought aboard quite a large haul of plants, animals,
rocks, and insects.
The entire day was spent surveying Wenman and Culpepper Islands.
In the evening the crew raised all sails and under a good
strong wind steered for the island of Tahiti.
Darwin went to London to visit with his brother, Erasmus.
He also spent a lot of time going to all the London museums,
hunting for people to examine and catalogue his specimens.
Unfortunately, nearly all the museums were seriously backlogged
with specimens recently brought in from the British Colonies.
Darwin spent his time waiting around in London for the Beagle
to arrive at the Woolwich dockyards.
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at the Woolwich dockyards to be paid
off. Darwin got the remaining crates off the ship with Syms
Covington's help. He became very worried about what to do
with the huge pile of crates sitting on the dock. Eventually
much of them went to Revd. Henslow in Cambridge. In the evening
he met Charles Lyell for the first time at Lyell's house for
dinner, and was also introduced to Richard Owen. Lyell helped
Darwin in finding naturalists to take his specimens for examination,
and Owen eagerly volunteered to examine some his animal and
He returned to Christ's College, and took up residence in
Revd. William Paley's former rooms.
some time during this month:
Darwin attended the Birmingham Music Festival with the Wedgwood
Wanting to get as far away from London as possible, Darwin
went off to Ilkley Spa in Yorkshire to "ride out the
storm" that his book would likely create, and to treat
his ill health.
Another shipment of specimens was sent to Revd. Henslow. This
one included many bird skins, insects, seeds, some plants,
and water and gas samples from some hot springs in the Andes
Eager that Darwin should not "go astray" his father
decided that his son will pursue a medical career as he and
his grandfather did before him. Darwin was sent to the University
of Edinburgh in Scotland, known as having one of the best
medical schools in all of Europe. Once there he joined his
brother, Erasmus, having finished most of his medical studies
at Cambridge. They took lodgings together in 11 Lothian Street,
right across from the University. Darwin did not particularly
take a liking to medical studies - the fear of the sight of
blood being a major hindrance, but the primary reason for
his aversion appears to be that he found the study of medicine
His brother, Erasmus, left home to study medicine at Christ's
College, Cambridge University.
Darwin was accepted into Christ's College at Cambridge, but
did not start until winter term because he needed to catch
up on some of his studies.
Darwin read a book by the famous economist, Revd. Thomas Malthus,
titled "Essay on the Principle of Population". In
this book Malthus put forward the economic theory that as
human populations grow and resources become scarce the weak
die off in a struggle for existence. Darwin theorized that
the same kind of relationship may exist in the wild. In other
words, what Malthus saw in economics, Darwin saw in nature.
"Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation" was
published by British naturalist, Robert Chambers. This was
the book that brought the notion of transmutation out into
the public arena. It attempted to described the entire evolution
of the universe, from planets to people, as being driven by
some kind of self developing force which acted according to
natural laws. The book was written more for the poor working
class of England, rather than the scientific elite, for it
appealed to their desire to "evolve" beyond their
wretched economic circumstances. Unfortunately, it received
widespread criticism because it went against the old scientific
school of thought which said that species can only be modified
by the divine hand of god. Despite the harsh criticism, Vestiges
sold very well.
Darwin told his friend, Revd. Leonard Jenyns, his basic ideas
about transmutation, but he received a poor response from
him. Jenyns saw species as static; there was no progress or
change. Perhaps at this time Darwin felt ready to send out
feelers and see if any other naturalists would come to his
side. Little did he know that it would be nearly nine years
before another naturalist would join him.
Descriptions of the Beagle specimens are now complete, except
for one species of barnacle. Darwin was anxious to get back
to work on transmutation and figured he could put together
a description of this barnacle in short order. Little did
he know that the study of this barnacle would explode into
perhaps the most intensive research project of his life, spanning
nearly eight years.
German naturalist, Ernst Haeckel, paid a visit to Down House.
Haeckel had become the professor of comparative anatomy at
the University of Jena and was an avid supporter of evolution
in his country. He and Darwin had an interesting meeting,
waving their arms about and using makeshift sign language
in a struggle to communicate. Despite communication problems,
however, they got along splendidly. He was a very loud speaking
gentleman and Emma could not stand to be in the same room
"The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions
of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits" was published.
About the next six months were spent making changes to Down
House. Some of the rooms had to be fixed up, garden walls
were built, and barrier trees planted. A nearby road (Luxted
Road) that passed by the house had to be made lower so passers
by would not be able to look inside the house. Darwin even
had a mirror put outside his study window so he could see
when visitors were coming to the house.
Darwin started to write his book: "Geological Observations
on South America" which spelled out his theory of how
the Andes Mountains were pushed upwards by slow geological
forces over a very long period of time.
Darwin shelved his transmutation essay because with Hooker
away there was no one to provide him with feedback and guidance.
Also, his barnacle research was still blooming out of control
and needed much attention.
Darwin's health was becoming much worse, with new symptoms
showing up. He was experiencing bouts of depression, dizziness,
seeing spots before his eyes, and twitching spells. He feared
he was going to die soon. Due to his increased illness the
barnacle research was proceeding at a snails pace.
An Italian translation of Origins was completed.
Work was started on the 2nd edition of "Descent of Man".