Belated Darwin Day Post
So Friday was Charles Darwin’s 201st birthday. I was hoping to get my blog set up in time to do a happy birthday post but things kept cropping up and distracting me. Nevertheless I thought I’d give my shout out to the father of evolutionary theory today.
For those few of you who may be unaware, British naturalist Charles Darwin was the man who at the right place and time managed to put together the pieces of the puzzle that formed evolution through natural selection. Why did I phrase it like that? It is important for science lovers and rationalists to understand that very rarely (if ever) have great scientific discoveries been whipped up by a single person from a vacuum. It is not widely known that simple and somewhat flawed versions of common descent and transmutation of species have been around for thousands of years. Philosophers in Greece, Rome, Persia and China all toyed with ideas that to contemporary man sound strikingly similar to evolution.
Even Charles Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus Darwin developed much of the thinking that helped inspire Darwin to formulate his theory, especially with regards to the relatedness of all forms of life. To cut to the meat of my post, Darwin’s publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’ presented evidence to the world that evolution through means of natural selection is the driving force behind the diversity and history of all life on Earth. Darwin’s famous voyage on the HMS Beagle provided a good deal of evidence and inspiration that would help him solidify his ideas years later.
In Sydney Australia in 2009 an exhibition was held at the Maritime Museum focusing on Charles Darwin’s famous voyage with the Beagle, particularly in regard to his visit to Australia. Despite the fact that Darwin described Australia as dull and uninteresting I was able to forgive him long enough to make a trip to the museum while on a work trip in Sydney.
I present for you a small collection of photographs I took of objects at this awesome exhibit “Charles Darwin: Voyages and Ideas that Shook the World”:
This collection of pieces was gathered by the crew of the Beagle while they voyaged through Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. Featured are two Australian Aboriginal Boomerangs as well as a sword made form a saw-fish nose. Cool huh!
Apparently Darwin contracted crabs on his voyage… All joking aside this fantastic collection of crab specimens is only a small part of the collection Darwin accrued. Unfortunately the crabs have lost most of their colour as they were originally stored in alcohol. I think it’s a shame those silly finches get all the attention!
This remarkable book is the actual Captain’s log from the Beagle. The page it is open to dates from the 3 years the Beagle spent surveying the Great Barrier Reef along with the HMS Fly.
This even more stunning book is a real 1st edition copy of On the Origin of Species. While not directly related to the voyage of the Beagle this incredibly precious book is still able to inspire awe.
This pencil drawing is one of the few contemporary images of the Beagle ever known. Unfortunately after it’s survey of Australia the Beagle was transfered to British Customs and sold for scrap material in 1870.
Finally, this chart used by the Beagles last commander John Lort Stokes shows the path of both world voyages. The 1831-1836 voyage is marked in red and the 1837-1843 voyage is marked in black. This chart was fascinating to look at, especially the little bump where they landed near Perth!
All in all the exhibit was spectacular. There was much more to see and heaps more to learn than I could possibly write about here. It was great to see such a public expression of Evolution and such a respectful gesture toward Darwin himself. I’ll leave you with an interesting factoid about Darwin’s journey with the Beagle.
Darwin would never have been invited to journey with the Beagle had it’s first Captain, Pringle Stokes not committed suicide. The suicide prompted the Beagle’s second Captain Robert Fitzroy to invite somebody else with gentlemanly virtues along for the ride to keep his mind grounded. Lucky for us eh?