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

Geology
 

The immediate impact of Darwin's Beagle discoveries
Sir Charles Lyell, 1797-1875.
Elements of geology. From the 2nd English ed. 2 vols. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, 1841.

This second edition of Lyell's widely-read geological manual already began to argue from some of Darwin's Galapagos evidence, well in advance of Darwin's own long-pondered analysis in the Origin.


Emma Darwin
From the portrait by George Richmond.

In January 1839, Darwin married his cousin Emma Wedgwood. At first they had a house in Gower Street, in London, near the scientific societies where Darwin was building his reputation.


Darwin at home

In 1842, three years after their marriage, the Darwins moved out into the country, purchasing Down House, Downe, a small village seventeen miles from London. It remained their home for the rest of his life. The Darwins had ten children in all.


Explaining the movement of the earth
Charles Darwin,
"On the connexion of certain volcanic phenomena in South America; and on the formation of mountain chains and volcanos, as the effect of the same power by which continents are elevated,"
Transactions of the Geological Society, 2nd series, 5 (1840): 601-631.

Soon after his return from the Beagle voyage, Darwin began to back away from the zoological research community, then deeply divided over Lamarckianism. Instead he began to build a reputation within the more gentlemanly and less disputatious field of geology. This paper, read to the Society in March 1838, set the Chilean earthquake of 1835 (which he had himself observed) in the wider context of theories about movement in the earth's surface.


Explaining geological change in Britain
Charles Darwin,
"Observations on the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and of other parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an attempt to prove that they are of marine origin."
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, [volume 129] (1839): 39-81.

Primed by his observations in South America, Darwin travelled specially to Scotland to see for himself one of the most puzzling of British geological phenomena, mysterious terraces hundreds of feet up along both sides of the glen. He explained them as the slope of former beaches, evidence that the Scottish highlands, like the Andean chain, had at some past period been below sea-level. Within a month of reading this paper, Darwin, then only 30 years of age, was elected fellow of the Royal Society.


Darwin on the geology of the Beagle

Charles Darwin,
The structure and distribution of coral reefs, with three plates. London: Smith, Elder, 1842.

Geological observations on the volcanic islands, visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, together with some brief notices on the geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Being the second part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836.
London: Smith, Elder, 1844.

Geological observations on South America : being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836.  
London: Smith, Elder, 1846.

Darwin's interest in geological evidence for changes in land elevation had been piqued at the Beagle's very first landfall in 1832, in Teneriffe.  It is significant that, though he left the technical reports on his zoological and botanical discoveries to other people, Darwin kept the geological evidence for himself. During the 1840s, he published a sequence of three separately-issued books that together constitute a "Geology of the Beagle," parallel to the multi-authored Zoology, but with a much more sustained interpretative ambition. The best known of the three is the first, originally published in 1842, describing the coral reefs and atolls he had encountered in the Pacific and Indian oceans during the later part of the Beagle's circumnavigation.


The sign of Darwin's success and a tribute to Lyell's influence
Charles Darwin,
Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world: under the command of Capt. Fitz Roy, R.N. Second edition, corrected, with additions. London: John Murray, 1845.

The cheap format of this second edition attests to widespread early interest in Darwin's discoveries, long before the Origin. Dedicated to his geological mentor Charles Lyell, it was issued in two forms: in parts in Murray's Home and Colonial Library, and (as here) in a single volume. Darwin's revision for this second edition was used in all subsequent Victorian editions.


An established reputation as a geologist
Charles Darwin,
"Geology,"
in Sir John Herschel, 1792-1871, ed., A manual of scientific enquiry; prepared for the use of Her Majesty's navy: and adapted for travellers in general. . . . Published by authority of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. London: John Murray, 1849.

Darwin's selection to write the geological chapter in this official Admiralty manual for scientific exploration attests to his established reputation with influential contemporaries like Herschel. He resented giving up the four weeks that writing the chapter diverted from his new research interest, in marine biology, but accepted the commission as a public duty.


Darwin in 1849

Engraving after a lithograph by Y. H. Maguire, c. 1849.



 

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