The C. Warren Irvin, Jr., Collection
of Charles Darwin and Darwiniana

Overview | Warren Irvin on Collecting Darwin | Boyhood and Edinburgh | Cambridge | The Voyage of the Beagle | Zoology and Botany | Geology | Vestiges and Lamarckianism | Marine Biology and the 1850s | The Origin of Species | After the Origin | After Darwin

Zoology and Botany of the Beagle

Expert help and government patronage
Charles Darwin, ed.,
The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N., during the years 1832 to 1836: Published with the approval of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury. London: Published by Smith, Elder and Co., 1839-1843.

Darwin readily recognized that he had neither the time nor the expertise to do justice to numerous specimens across a range of scientific specialties. With Henslow's help, he obtained a generous government grant to subsidize production of this lavishly illustrated five-part account, and he was able to enlist five leading experts to produce the detailed descriptions of each new species for fossil mammalia, mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles (though he contributed the descriptions of habitat and behavior from his own observations). The importance of the work is indicated by its contemporary purchase for the South Carolina College library.

Tanager darwinii or Darwin's tanager

From the painting by John Gould. TheBeagle voyage brought back numerous bird species previously unknown to European scientists, several of which were named for their discoverer.

A new species of bird
"Rhea Darwinii,"
from The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle: pt. III. Birds. 
Described by John Gould, Esq.
London: Published by Smith, Elder and Co., 1841.

Famously, Darwin and his shipmates had started dismembering and eating what later turned out to be a new species of ostrich for their Christmas feast at Port Desire in Patagonia, when he recognized its possible significance and recovered its remains. After Gould had confirmed its distinctness (and named it for its discoverer), the Patagonian rhea appeared among Darwin's notebook speculations as one of his first test-cases in his attempts to explain species differentiation.

A new species of mouse
"Mus Darwinii,"
from The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle: pt. IV Mammalia.
Described by George R. Waterhouse, Esq.
London: Published by Smith, Elder and Co., 1839.

The mouse shown here is only one of twenty-eight new species of mouse that Waterhouse differentiated among the specimens Darwin brought back. This volume also contains the description of Darwin's fossil discoveries, by Prof. Richard Owen, of the College of Surgeons, who would later be among Darwin's fiercest opponents.

The Galapagos finches
from The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, pt. III, Birds.

Among the most significant specimens brought back by Darwin would be the numerous species of finch from the separate islands of the Galapagos archipelago.

Darwin's botanical discoveries and a new scientific ally
Joseph Dalton Hooker,
"An enumeration of the plants of the Galapagos Archipelago, with descriptions of those which are new,"
Transactions of the Linnean Society, 20, (1851): 163-262.

By the time of Darwin's return, his Cambridge botanical mentor Henslow was increasingly occupied as clergyman of a country parish. In 1843, Darwin handed over his plant specimens from the Beagle to the young Dr. Hooker, son of the director of Kew Gardens, and just back from his own scientific voyage to Antarctica in H.M.S. Erebus. In this paper, read over three sessions in 1845, Hooker begins analysis of the separate development of species on the various Galapagos islands, a crucial step for Darwin's Origin argument. Hooker was one of the first to whom Darwin confided his ideas on the species question, and he became one of Darwin's strongest supporters.

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