Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle

Charles Darwin| | |

24 November 2009 is the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Darwin's groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species in 1859. In it he set forth his theory of the evolution of species by means of natural selection.

Charles Darwin (1809–82) and the second Beagle voyage

Charles Darwin
© English Heritage
Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. From 1831–36 Darwin (then a trainee Anglican parson) served as an unpaid naturalist on a science expedition aboard . His father Robert at first refused to let him join the expedition though was later persuaded otherwise.

Darwin had been suggested for the post to the Beagle's captain, Robert FitzRoy, who wanted an enthusiastic and well-trained gentleman naturalist to accompany him on the second Beagle survey and to share meals at his dinner table. FitzRoy was a little suspicious of Darwin at first but they got along very well, although years after the Beagle voyages their relationship became strained due to differing views on evolution.

The expedition visited many places around the world and Darwin studied the various plants and animals, collecting specimens for further analysis. In South America, Darwin found fossils of extinct animals that were similar to modern species. Furthermore, on the Galapagos Islands he noticed many variations of plants and animals that were similar to those he found in South America.

Theory of evolution

Upon return to London, further analysis of the specimens collected on the voyage led Darwin to several related theories:

  • evolution did occur
  • evolutionary change was gradual, occuring over thousands and millions of years
  • the primary mechanism for evolution was a process Darwin refered to as natural selection
  • the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process he called 'specialization'.

Darwin's theory of evolutionary selection holds that variation within species occurs randomly and that the survival or extinction of each organism is determined by that organism's ability to adapt to its environment. He first published these theories in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Charles Darwin was not of course the first to propose a theory of evolution. The ideas of common descent and the transmutation of species had been expounded by the Greek philosopher Anaximander as far back as the 6th century BC; and Charles's grandfather the natural philosopher Erasmus Darwin had set out his own evolutionary ideas in 1796. The British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was also formulating a theory of evolution by natural selection at about the same time as Charles Darwin.

Nonetheless Darwin's work had a great impact on society at the time. While other thinkers used his research to support their various (often opposing) views and ideas, Darwin avoided talking about the theological and sociological aspects of his work. Darwin continued to write on botany, geology and zoology until his death in 1882. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

HMS Beagle

HMS Beagle © English HeritageHMS Beagle, launched in 1820, measured just 27m (90’ 4’’) in length, with a breadth of 7m (24’ 6’’) and weighed 235 tons. She was an unremarkable 10-gun brig, often called a 'coffin brig' because they had a reputation for sinking. She was specially commissioned for the new surveying programme and never saw active service.

Captain FitzRoy of the HMS Beagle

by SciLite

On a voyage preceeding the one Darwin was on, natives of Tierra del Fuego (the southern tip of South America) stole a ship's boat. Captain FitzRoy kidnapped four of the natives, including a boy and girl, as hostages for the return of the boat. He brought the Fuegans to England where they were trained as missionaries, and then returned the natives to Tierra del Fuego on his second voyage with the Beagle (the voyage which Charles Darwin was on). Captain FitzRoy expected that the returned Fuegans would convert other Fuegans to Christianity, but they reverted to their former ways.

If I understand. Let me use Darwin.

by AFA1979

Charles Darwin sailed on HMS Beagle. While there he observed a wide varity of life. He noticed that some of the animals had developed special traits that made survival easier. His experience of that lead him to the idea of Natural Selection and evolution. Today people who study biology by reading Darwin come to the same conclusion. By this study people reject God. Everything you think is based on experiences plus your DNA.

A few fun facts on the Theory of Evolution

by DBagain1

-- That you should research.
Evolution as a means of explaining the existence of species was a known and fairly accepted concept/theory prior to the voyage of the HMS Beagle and the subsequent publishing of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life."
Scientists of the day more or less assumed that the Zebra begat the Horse, etc. Darwin merely gave examples of the process.
The shit hit the fan only when it was suggested that Man was included in that process rather than above it.

You might also like


What was alfred tennyson's influnces on his poetry?

It depends which poems you're reading... In Memorian is influenced by debates in evolutionary science. When this poem was initially written, Charles Darwin had been on his voyage on the Beagle to the south Pacific, but he had not yet compiled his tremendous book On Natural Selection. Nevertheless, scientific debate was lively. Tennyson was also interested in the medieval period, especially the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the round table (and their ladies, too). He had read Mallory's Morte D'Arthur and was interested in improving on Mallory's poem.

There are…

How did the photographer Julia margaret cameron impact history?

She took photos of famous people such as Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Charles Darwin.

Related Posts