- Events sorted by day of the month:
A packet ship arrived with mail for H.M.S. Beagle. Darwin
went onshore to pay a visit to Sir John Herschel who had been
living there since 1833. He was in charge of the new Royal
Observatory built at Cape Town. Darwin was pleased to discover
that Herschel had a keen interest in natural history. They
had many conversations about volcanoes, earthquakes, the movement
of continents, the origin of mankind, and how new species
come into being.
The Beagle returned from Salvador. Three crew members had
died from a fever and the ship's surgeon, Robert McCormick,
resigned his position and headed back to England on the ship,
H.M.S. Tyne. It was standard practice for the ship's surgeon
to collect specimens during a survey voyage and McCormick
felt his duty was usurped by Darwin. Benjamin Bynoe was made
acting surgeon for the remainer of the voyage.
The Darwin family went on holiday to North Wales, and along
the way they visited The Mount for the last time.
After a relapse, Darwin headed back to Dr. Lane's Hydropathic
Spa for another two weeks.
Darwin's father took him out of Shrewsbury school due to his
poor grades and his having no direction in life. It is ironic
to think that at this time his father castigated Darwin for
his idleness, claiming that if he carried on this way he would
end up being a disgrace to himself and his family. Apparently
Darwin cared for nothing but shooting birds, playing with
dogs, and catching rats!
Darwin received a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace, who was
still at the Malay Archipelago. The paper was titled: "On
the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the
Original Type". Darwin was shocked! Wallace had come
up with a theory of natural selection that was very similar
to his own. The paper contained concepts like "the struggle
for existence," and "the transmutation of species".
Upon further examination Darwin saw that Wallace had some
ideas about natural selection that he did not agree with.
For one thing, Wallace tried to mix social morality with natural
selection, proposing an upward evolution of human morals which
would eventually lead to a socialist utopia (Darwin's natural
selection had no goal). What's more, Wallace believed that
cooperation in groups aided in the progress of mankind (Darwin
saw natural selection as being influenced by competition).
Finally, Wallace's natural selection was guided by a higher
spiritual power (there was no divine intervention in Darwin's
After seven months of work his volume of the "Journal
of Researches" was finally complete, but publication
was delayed because the volume Capt. FitzRoy was writing was
going slower than anticipated. Darwin started writing another
book on South American geology, and also devoted much time
to the study of transmutation - in secret of course.
His health problems started to become worse - more heart troubles,
stomach pains, nausea, and headaches. Figuring that some time
in the country would do him some good, Darwin went on holiday
to northern Scotland. He explored the Glen Roy valley, forty
miles south-west of Inverness, where he studied the famous
"Parallel Roads" running along the sides of the
valley. He theorized that the roads were caused by the retreat
of ancient seas as the valley rose over eons of time. If true,
this would add support to his theory of raising land masses
(these formations are now known to have been caused by the
action of retreating glacial lake).
Darwin's son, Charles Waring Darwin, died.
Having been pronounced nearly cured, Darwin returned to Down
House and immediately went back to his barnacles. During the
summer he had a water cure bath setup in the backyard. He
would sit under a forty gallon water tank and pull a cord
which would released freezing cold water through a pipe onto
Professor William Draper of New York University gave a talk
at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement
of Science. The meeting took place at Oxford University's
Museum Library, and Draper's topic was the influence of Darwinian
theory on social progress. Revd. John Stevens Henslow was
the presiding president during this meeting. Apparently the
talk was only mildly interesting, but most of the 700 to 1,000
people in attendance stayed to the end because they wanted
to hear Bishop Wilberforce respond to the talk, and since
Huxley was there as well, a lively debate on evolution was
sure to follow. After Draper finished his talk, Wilberforce
stood and gave his thirty minute rebuttal by way of attacking
"Origin of Species" every way he knew how, and by
verbally attacking Thomas Huxley. Although Huxley fought back
admirably, he was not able to hold the audience. At some time
during the debate, an elderly gentleman stood up, holding
a bible overhead, and pleaded with the audience to follow
god's word. It was Robert FitzRoy! Joseph Hooker, who had
reluctantly attended the meeting, eventually stood before
the audience and tore into Wilberforce. He accused him of
never having read "Origin of Species" and said Wilberforce
knew nothing what-so-ever about the botanical sciences. Although
it is commonly believed that the debate was only between Wilberforce,
Huxley, and Hooker, many other people spoke out in defense
of the church or in support of evolution. The debate lasted
about four hours, most of which, it seems, consisted of each
side attacking the views of the other. There was much commotion
in the audience (one lady even fainted!), and in the end both
sides claimed they had won the day. Darwin was not able to
attend the meeting, as he was quite ill and was at the time
taking the water cure at Sudbrook Park in the village of Richmond,
some time during this month:
While at Shrewsbury Darwin wrote up a thirty-five page sketch
of his ideas about transmutation. This was the very first
rough draft of his theory. In it he had natural selection
figured out, and had a basic description of descent, both
of which he said obeyed strict laws of nature. It is interesting
to note that at this time Darwin thought these "laws
of nature" were set forth by god during creation, after
which time god stepped back and no longer intervened with
Hooker attended the British Association for the Advancement
of Science meeting at Oxford. Darwin wanted to get as much
feedback as possible from Hooker before he left for the tropics,
so he went to Oxford with his essay in hand to asked Hooker
more questions. He again pointed out key areas of the essay
where his theory seemed to need work and gave general editorial
At around this time Annie started to complain of feeling sick.
Darwin worried that she may have inherited his illness. The
family took Annie on a trip to Ramsgate for sea bathing treatmnents,
and afterwards she took the water cure in the backyard. This
seems to have done much good for Annie. Work on barnacles
continued month after month.
By this time Darwin was slowly becoming obsessed with transmutation.
One of his earliest theories of species change was that each
species has a fixed life span and somehow they became extinct
when their "life force" was used up. In his "Red
Notebook" which he started onboard the Beagle, he noted
that the giant llamas of South America seemed to die out even
though they had not experienced a climatic change. For Darwin
this pointed to their "life force" running out.
Still, he had to explain how new species of llama took the
place of the extinct ones. This line of inquiry was put on
hold because he had to finish editing his "Journal of
Researches" and he was also working on his "Zoology"
series. It was during this time that Darwin began to experience
stomach troubles for days on end.
Darwin finished working on his transmutation notebooks (N
was the last one) and continued with his book - "The
Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs". Concern that
his ideas would be used for atheistic revolutionary ends,
he decided not to publish anything from the notebooks and
Darwin finished, "The Movement and Habits of Climbing
Plants" and sent it to John Murray for publication.