The Voyage Of The H.M.S. Beagle. Speaks Of Darwin's Life

1873 words - 7 pages

Charles Robert Darwin was a man of many hats. He was a friend,colleague, son, father, husband; but above all, he was a naturalist. Through his dedication and perseverance did he manageto, in less than a generation, establish the theory of evolution asa fact in peoples' minds. In fact, '[t]oday it is almost impossible for us to return, even momentarily, to the pre-Darwinianatmosphere and attitude' (West 323). Darwin formed the basis of histheory during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, on which vessel hewas posted as it travelled around the globe. During that five-yearspan, this young man saw foliage, creatures, cultures that he hadnever known first-hand before. He was exposed to environments thatnot many of his contemporaries saw and lived the life that few did.Was his epic journey merely a series of trips to strange and exoticlands, or was Darwin affected by his experiences in more profoundways?Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809; the same daythat another great man, Abraham Lincoln, was born. He was no childprodigy; he 'was considered by all [his] masters and by [his] Father as a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard inintellect' (Barlow Voyage 28). The one trait in him that standsout in his formative years is a taste for the outdoors; he loved togathershells, seals, franks, coins, and minerals. The passion for collecting, which leads a man to be a systemic naturalist, a virtuoso, or a miser, was very strong in [him] and was clearlyinnate, as none of [his] sisters and brother ever had this taste. (Barlow Autobiography 23)He grew up in Shrewsbury, and attended the local grammar-school there. After graduating, he entered Edinburgh University with the intent of studying medicine, but he found anatomy boring and his lack of sketching skills hampered him. It was decided between Darwin and his father that he should pursue ecclesiasticalstudies at Cambridge. Those subjects did not enthuse him either, but he discovered a 'spontaneous and exceptional interest in natural history' (Moorehead 25). Academically, 'he scraped through...with a pass' (Moorehead, 25) but socially, he enjoyed himself greatly, as he had fallen in with a crowd of sportsmen and naturalists. As well, he developed strong ties with his botany and geology teachers, Professors Adam Sedgwick and John Henslow.Henslow was indeed a true friend; he did Darwin the greatservice of notifying him when, soon after graduation, the professorlearned of a great opportunity. Captain Robert FitzRoy of the H.M.S. Beagle was looking for someone to take the post of unpaidnaturalist while his ship did cartographic surveys of South America. '[Henslow] wrote Darwin candidly that he thought him thebest qualified person who would accept such a 'situation'' (Darwinxiv). His father objected at first, but Darwin's 'Uncle Josiah Wedgwood...intervened and the coveted blessing was obtained' (Sears30-31). In his interview, Darwin and FitzRoy got along famously and became good friends; the young...

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