- Events sorted by day of the month:
H.M.S. Beagle dropped anchor at the Cocos Islands in the Indian
ocean. Darwin explored some of the islands and was impressed
with the myriad of coconut trees, although hardly anything
else existed on these islands. The islands were composed entirely
of coral and Darwin surmised that they were once part of a
large submerged coral reef. Despite the relative desolate
state of the islands he did manage to collect several plants,
a few small birds, one species of lizard, several species
of insects, and a lot of coral.
The Beagle dropped anchor at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the
crew received its first mail from England. Darwin learned
that his former girlfriend, Fanny Owen, was now married (last
May) to a wealthy politician named Robert Biddulph. During
the time at Rio, Darwin went off exploring in the tropical
forest with Patrick Lennon, a local English merchant. They
were away for eighteen days on a 150 mile trek inland to Rio
Macao where Darwin witnessed more brutal treatment of blacks.
Darwin was back on the coast at the town of Santiago. A few
days later he returned to Valparaiso and stayed at Mr. Corfield's
house where he worked on another expedition north along the
Lyell was invited to Down House, and Darwin gave him an update
on his transmutation work, telling him about his theory of
natural selection. Although he did not agree with transmutation
in general, (he feared the consequences if it was applied
to humans); Lyell urged Darwin to publish his work.
He appeared to be getting a little better; and was able to
go outside for short strolls.
Annie started to become more seriously ill.
Darwin had an extremely violent attack during the night. Emma
feared he was very near death and a doctor was sent for.
In the morning the doctor left, concluding that Darwin was
in stable condition. Soon afterwards he had more violent attacks.
The children were sent for and everyone gathered around his
bedside. Charles Darwin died at around 4:00 PM at Down House.
Work on the natural selection book was wearing him down again,
so Darwin headed back to Dr. Lane's Spa for yet another two
Arrangements were made for Darwin to be buried at St. Mary's
churchyard in the village of Downe. Francis Galton asked William
Spottiswoode (at the time president of the Royal Society)
if he would try to get the consent of the Darwin family for
Darwin to be buried at Westminster Abbey, in London. Meanwhile,
Sir John Lubbock, now an MP with quite a lot of political
influence, went to the House of Parliament to petition for
the burial. The petition was easily granted. Soon letters
from all over Britain were appearing in newspapers urging
the Darwin family to allow internment at Westminster. After
all, people argued, Sir Isaac Newton was interred at Westminster
Abbey and Charles Darwin deserved no less an honor. The family
soon gave their consent.
Darwin invited Thomas Huxley (naturalist and lecturer at the
London School of Mines), Joseph Hooker (botanical naturalist),
John Lubbock (banker, politician, and his next door neighbor)
and Thomas Wollaston (a leading entomologist) to Down House
for a special meeting. After showing off his gardens and fancy
pigeons, Darwin interviewed each of his friends one by one
in his private study. He put forth his basic ideas on transmutation
and asked them several questions regarding their views on
the subject. Only Wollaston, it seems, disagreed with Darwin.
He held fast to the commonly held belief that species were
fixed in time. Darwin was testing the waters of the scientific
and political community in order to gauge how his transmutation
work, once published, would be viewed.
Darwin was exhausted from his work on natural selection and
needed a good rest. He spends two weeks at Dr. Edward Lane's
Hydropathic Establishment at Moor Park in Farnham, just west
Annie Darwin died, and was buried at Great Malvern.
Darwin returned to Rio with a collection of insects and plants
that was beyond his wildest dreams. He learned that the Beagle
had gone back to Salvador to check on some survey readings
so he took a boat to Botafogo Bay with Augustus Earle (the
ships draughtsman) and Philip King (Midshipman), and waited
for the return of the ship. They spent a few weeks here in
a little cottage. During this time Darwin continued collecting
specimens, preserving them, making notes, and writing letters
back home to England.
Darwin returned to Cambridge for graduation and studied for
his trip. Seeing that Darwin would benefit from knowing a
little something about geology, Henslow introduced him to
Professor Adam Sedgwick, professor of Geology at Cambridge.
Darwin was invited to attend Sedgwick's geology lectures which
oddly enough he enjoyed a great deal (this is ironic, as he
found Jameson's geology lectures at Edinburgh to be very boring).
Charles Robert Darwin was buried at Westmineter Abbey. The
pall-bearers included: the Duke of Argyll, James Lowell (American
Ambassador to Britain), Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, William
Spottiswoode, Sir John Lubbock, Lord Derby, Duke of Devonshire
and Cannon Farrar. His wife, Emma, remained at Down House,
unable to bear the experience. He was buried next to his friend,
Sir John Herschel, about twenty feet from the tomb of Sir
Having had a mild recovery from his illness, Darwin felt well
enough to visit London and attend the April meeting of the
Royal Society. He was sporting a long white beard, and even
his friends do not recognize him.
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Port Louis, Mauritius Island, and
remained their a few days.
Admiral Robert FitzRoy commited suicide on this day. His views
on meteorological forecasting were being criticized, and he
was passed over for the position of Chief Naval Officer of
the Marine Department. Unable to handle such a rejection,
he fell into one of his bouts of depression and slit his throat.
some time during this month:
The Beagle finally sailed around Cape Horn to the Pacific
Ocean via the Strait of Magellan and the Magdalena Channel.
Another packet ship arrived with mail. H.M.S. Beagle and Adventure
surveyed up the coast to the island of Chiloe, Chile.
The water cure seemed to have worked. Darwin was able to go
on long walks every day and was quite happy. Within a short
time he was eager to get back to his barnacle work.
Darwin quit medical school for good.
Inspired by Henslow's advice, Darwin planned out a ocean voyage
to explore Tenerife at the Canary Islands. He tried to get
Revd. Henslow to go along with him but he could not go (his
wife just had a baby). Darwin's father tentatively approved
the trip, wanting him to first work out the logistics and
Darwin was still experiencing ill health. He went home to
Shrewsbury to have his father examine him. The Doctor was
at a loss and gave a diagnosis of "cause unknown".
Darwin met Thomas Huxley at a meeting of the Geological Society
in London. At the time Huxley was out of a job, short on money
and desperate for a position in the scientific community.
He was by now an accomplished naturalist, having served on
H.M.S. Rattlesnake as a surgeon and naturalist from 1846 to
1850. Despite this experience, none of the universities would
hire him. During this time Huxley became friends with Herbert
Spencer, and they spent many an hour discussing evolution
and its relation to man.
The term "Darwinism" was coined by Thomas Huxley
in the Westminster Journal.
Darwin was very ill again, but tried hard to work on his animal
While out riding, Darwin was thrown by "Tommy,"
his horse. His riding days were now over.
Thomas Huxley coined the term "Agnostic".
The new "Descent of Man" manuscript was sent to
John Murray. Charles Darwin's many years of work on evolution
were now complete.
Darwin attended Mr. Case's grammar school in Shrewsbury. He
was a rather shy and reserved boy who invented wild stories,
and showed off his athletic skills to the other boys. He was
also very mischievous, and enjoyed being the center of attention
in the household.
Not wanting to explore the tropics alone, Darwin convinced
his friend, Marmaduke Ramsay, a tutor at Jesus College, to
travel with him to the Canary Islands
Darwin began to formulate a crude notion "Descent"
and was just getting started with the idea of "Fitness".
From the breeders he wrote letters to he learned that an animal
need not be perfectly suited to its environment in order to
survive. Indeed, he learned that the bird breeders were selecting
traits that would be harmful to the animals in the wild (bright
gaudy colors, huge clumsy feathers, etc.). He also saw that
nature was eliminating the same variations that breeders were
trying to encourage. The question was, how did nature kill
them off? For a fleeting moment Darwin toyed with the idea
of a struggle for existence. He also began to see that the
adaptation of species was relative to the environment a species
lived in. As the environment changed, so too did species change
in order to survive. The commonly held belief that all species
were perfectly adapted to their surroundings was therefore
false. He was also convinced that there were no separate races
of man, but only environmentally adapted modifications of
them. Soon, Darwin was expanding the influence of descent,
making it responsible for emotions, habits, instincts, ethics,
Darwin began to consider that human thoughts and actions were
inherited and governed by some sort of natural law. If true,
this would imply that not only men, but also women, should
be educated to the highest possible standards. By doing so
one's children would get a double dose of beneficial traits.
He told his theory of inherited characteristics to Henslow
but he thought it was utter foolishness. Perhaps it was to
Lamarckian for him?
Due to concern for his reputation, Darwin decided to not publish
any of his transmutation theories for many years to come.
The rough transmutation sketch that Darwin worked on at Shrewsbury
was fleshed out some more and he sent the 189 page manuscript
to the local Downe schoolmaster for editing. By now his transmutation
theory had developed into a sort of self correcting feed-back
loop, in which animals and plants remain unmodified until
the environment changes. When changes took place the members
of a species with traits that gave them a slight advantage
in the new environment gained more reproductive success. Over
eons of time this process resulted in one species transmutating
Bolstered by all the new talk of evolution and progress, Darwin
joined the Philosophical Club in London with the intention
of seeking out naturalists that may be sympathetic to his
transmutation theories. The club was being filled with a younger
generation of naturalists, many of whom had been writing papers
on the topic of evolution, but they were all conjectural.
A comprehensive explanation of how evolution worked was still
In order to get hands on experience with species variations,
Darwin became caught up in the extremely popular avocation
of breeding fancy pigeons. He studied their habits, experimented
with cross breeding and back breeding, and kept meticulous
notes on his observations.
Darwin spent his time writing his book on sexual selection
in which he discussed man's ancient origins for the first
time. By now the book had grown into a huge volume of nearly
one-thousand pages and he feared the section on man's origins
would become lost in the immensity of the text. Therefore,
he decided to have the book published in two parts - "Descent
of Man" and "Selection in Relation to Sex".
- Summer 1871
The 6th edition of "Origin of Species" was published,
with a responce to Mivart included. The term "evolution"
was mentioned for the first time in this edition.
Charles Lyell received a package from a young promising naturalist
named Alfred Russel Wallace who at the time was doing natural
history research at the Malay Archipelago. The package contained
a twenty page paper titled: "On the Law which has Regulated
the Introduction of New Species". Lyell was intrigued
by this paper because it contained ideas of transmutation
that were similar to the ones Darwin had been working on for
the past twenty years. He showed the paper to Darwin, but
he was not too impressed with it.
Darwin rewrote parts of his autobiography.
or Summer 1838
While reading up on animal breeding, Darwin came across a
pamphlet written by a politician and professional animal breeder
by the name of Sir John Sebright. It was titled "The
Art of Improving Breeds of Domestic Animals" (1809).
In this pamphlet Darwin was struck by one particular statement
which said that the weak do not survive long enough to pass
on their traits.
or Summer 1838
The first thoughts of getting married started to run through
Darwin's head. He even went so far as to jot down a list of
pros and cons of marriage. If he remained a bachelor he could
go wherever he wished - tour Europe, maybe even visit America
and do geology. Marriage would mean children, and that would
mean a loss of time with his research. He would become a fat
and idle gentleman. However, marriage would also mean he would
have someone to look after him, someone to talk to and care
for. He also considered taking a professorship at Cambridge,
or if he lived out in the country he would have the peaceful
quiet of a private life and could breed plants and animals.
Most of the term was spent attending botany lectures from
Professor Henslow. By this time Henslow had marked Darwin
out as a gifted student with great promise. They often went
on long walks together, discussing botany and going on plant
collecting outings. Henslow also had Darwin over to his house
for his Friday night dinner parties. It was during this time
in his life that Darwin clearly saw his future; he would become
country clergyman/naturalist like Henslow.