Darwin Day Feb 12, 2024 — #DarwinDay

David Gamble
4 min readFeb 11, 2024
As HMS Beagle surveyed the coasts of South America, Darwin theorised about geology and the extinction of giant mammals; watercolour by the ship’s artist Conrad Martens, who replaced Augustus Earle, in Tierra del Fuego

Once again #DarwinDay is here. It is of course Feb 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born in 1809. Well OK, it’s going out a day early.

He is of course celebrated because of his contributions to evolutionary biology. His proposition, that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science.

How did he end up doing this?

Born into a wealthy family, he could have done anything, so what led him down the path that he took in life?

He started out in life by being inspired by his father, a medical doctor, to also go into medicine and so he attended medical school in Edinburgh. He soon realised this was not for him; the lectures were dull and the surgery was quite distressing (understandably so, people were not under anesthesia).

He soon drifted into natural history and that absorbed a great deal of his attention. His father was of course rather annoyed that he had neglected his medical studies and so he was sent to Cambridge on a track that led to him becoming an Anglican country parson. The hope was that if being a doctor was not for him, then this would set him up for a quiet independent life.

He qualified and passed his exams, but was once again very drawn by natural history and nature. Due to contacts, and his interest in the topic, he was proposed as a suitable naturalist to go on the HMS Beagle voyage. Apparently the feeling a the time is that such a position should be held by a gentleman and not just a collector.

At first his dad objected, but eventually was persuaded by another family member that it would be good for him to do this and see the wider world, so his dad funded his two year trip. (Yea, they thought it would be just two years, and as we all know it really took five years)

The Voyage

As the voyage proceeded from 1831 he collected wildlife and fossils and also made observations about the diversity of life.

He was deeply curious and was inspired to wonder why things were the way they were.

The Book

--

--

David Gamble

Blogger and writer with a keen interest in science, skepticism, critical thinking, and many other weird and whacky topics.