The Voyage Of The HMS Beagle The

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The Voyage Of The H.M.S. Beagle: The Making Of A Naturalist Essay, Research Paper 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 manage to, in less than a generation, establish the theory of evolution as a fact in peoples’ minds. In fact, “[t]oday it is almost impossible for us to return, even momentarily, to the pre-Darwinian atmosphere and attitude” (West 323). Darwin formed the basis of his theory during the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, on which vessel he was posted as it travelled around the globe. During that five-year span, this young man saw foliage, creatures, cultures that he had never known first-hand before. He was exposed to

environments that not many of his contemporaries saw and lived the life that few did. Was his epic journey merely a series of trips to strange and exotic lands, or was Darwin affected by his experiences in more profound ways? Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809; the same day that another great man, Abraham Lincoln, was born. He was no child prodigy; he “was considered by all [his] masters and by [his] Father as a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect” (Barlow Voyage 28). The one trait in him that stands out in his formative years is a taste for the outdoors; he loved to gather shells, 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 clearly innate, 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 great service of notifying him when, soon after graduation, the professor learned of a great opportunity. Captain Robert FitzRoy of the H.M.S. Beagle was looking for someone to take the post of unpaid naturalist while his ship did cartographic surveys of South America. “[Henslow] wrote Darwin candidly that he thought him the best qualified person who would accept such a ’situation’” (Darwin xiv). His father objected at first, but Darwin’s “Uncle Josiah Wedgwood…intervened and the coveted blessing was obtained” (Sears 30-31). In his interview, Darwin and FitzRoy got along famously and became good friends; the young

nature-lover was accepted, and he and the captain were to share a cabin. Darwin was an easygoing man, and so he and his roommate got along quite well. The captain had a dynamic temper and was subjected to fits of sullenness, but also “combined a strict sense of duty with a very high sense of justice and regard for special conditions. He had courage and was capable of magnificent seamanship under severe conditions” (Dibner 13). Darwin always held his companion in the highest regard, even when they did not share the same views. Their five-year journey, originally to be two years in length, took them around the world. This trip reinforced in Darwin a thousandfold his passion for botany and geology, and “his intention to become a priest…died a natural death on the Beagle