Darwin's " Origin of Species " : A Biography - A Book That by Janet Browne

By Janet Browne

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Additional info for Darwin's " Origin of Species " : A Biography - A Book That Shook the World (Books That Shook the Wor

Sample text

During these years he trained himself to see – to look attentively at details – and to record. In retrospect, perhaps the most significant aspect of the voyage was therefore not the huge collection of specimens, the sights, the dangers, or even the personal maturation and friendships he experienced, but the opportunity to develop an intense understanding of the variety of the natural world. By the time he came back he had stopped shooting. ’8 The impact of seeing so many different places and people and encountering such a variety of natural habitats and forms of life was incalculable.

Darwin later said in his Autobiography that he was content with the idea of becoming a clergyman, though he felt one or two fleeting religious doubts. Afterwards he was well aware of the irony. 1 His father had evidently impressed on him the importance of gaining a profession: he could not depend on a full private income from inheritance alone. ‘You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family,’ Dr Darwin once declared, to his son’s mortification.

On the way home, Darwin and FitzRoy jointly wrote a short newspaper article praising the work of the Anglican missionaries on Tahiti. Images of Darwin alone with his thoughts on board the Beagle, arguing about religion with the captain, a solitary naturalist voyaging through strange seas of thought, is attractive but only true in part. These five years on the Beagle voyage were the making of him. Some of them were spent galloping around on hired horses, striking camp in new places every night, hunting game for supper with companions from the ship, discussing the news from back home and enjoying himself; they were an extension of the carefree days as a Cambridge undergraduate.

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