Evolution's Captain: The Story of the Kidnapping That Led to Charles Darwin's Voyage Aboard the Beagle
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This is the story of the man without whom the name Charles Darwin might be unknown to us today. That man was Captain Robert FitzRoy, who invited the 22-year-old Darwin to be his companion on board the Beagle .
This is the remarkable story of how a misguided decision by Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle , precipitated his employment of a young naturalist named Charles Darwin, and how the clash between FitzRoy’s fundamentalist views and Darwin’s discoveries led to FitzRoy’s descent into the abyss.
One of the great ironies of history is that the famous journey—wherein Charles Darwin consolidated the earth-rattling ‘origin of the species’ discoveries—was conceived by another man: Robert FitzRoy. It was FitzRoy who chose Darwin for the journey—not because of Darwin’s scientific expertise, but because he seemed a suitable companion to help FitzRoy fight back the mental illness that had plagued his family for generations. Darwin did not give FitzRoy solace; indeed, the clash between the two men’s opposing views, together with the ramifications of Darwin’s revelations, provided FitzRoy with the final unendurable torment that forced him to end his own life.
manners, invariably charmed and fascinated their hosts. The culminating pinnacle of the Fuegians’ social forays was an audience with the new king, William IV, and his wife, Queen Adelaide. A quiet man and lackluster monarch with a disdain for pomp and ceremony, William had been welcomed by the British public and its government on succeeding his brother, George IV, whose tabloid escapades had been an embarrassment to the country. Never expecting to become king, William had lived quietly with his
days of a century of peace in Europe that would last (apart from the interruption of the Crimean War) until the outbreak of World War I. The navy’s interest had shifted from defense to the guardianship of its empire, and facilitating the expansion of trade and exploration. Beaufort intensified surveying efforts across the globe, and within a few years of his appointment sent ships and surveyors back to South America; to Africa, Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea, the South China Sea, the
changing environment, becoming and generating new species by transmutation. This was a direct contradiction of the Bible, and in an earlier age Lamarck would have been burned at a stake for his views. In Lamarck’s time, most people, even forward-looking scientists, still believed that God had created Earth, and all life upon it, as a “Great Chain of Being” from the smallest—that is, lowest—creatures, to the highest, Man, with each species occupying its own predetermined, unchangeable link in that
The English sailors pulled hard to stay ahead of the following canoes. As soon as they were ashore, the marines marked a boundary line on the ground with spades and spaced themselves out to guard the enclosed site on which the seamen now set to work erecting the settlement’s wigwams and digging a garden. The canoes began arriving, and more natives gathered on the shore. York and Jemmy were kept busy explaining to them the meaning of the boundary line, and what was happening, and the natives
nineteenth-century equivalent of the first crash of a jumbo jet; the numbers, the totality of the casualties, were shocking. The hurricane’s approach was something that could only have been detected by barometer readings, and while hurricanes move with a suddenness that may have made any warning too late for the Royal Charter, safety from weather at sea instantly became a hot issue. It was discussed at that year’s meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, presided over by