Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, Naturalist




Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is best known for presenting the theory of evolution by natural selection. As a young man he gained extensive knowledge about animal and plant diversity while serving as naturalist on a five-year voyage of the charting vessel, HMS Beagle that visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835.


Charles Darwin’s Writings about the Galapagos Islands


Two of the popular books Darwin published in his lifetime specifically mention the Galapagos Islands: The Voyage of the Beagle and The Origin of Species.


The Voyage of the Beagle


When Darwin returned from his trip around the world on the HMS Beagle (1831-1836), he and Captain Fitz-Roy each wrote an account of the voyage. Darwin’s notes became Volume III in The Narrative of the Voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle edited by Captain Fitz-Roy and published in 1839.


Volume I contained Captain Fitz-Roy’s account of the first charting expedition of the Beagle (1826-1830). Volume II contained Captain Fitz-Roy’s account of the second expedition, including the brief complementary expedition of the second ship, Adventure (1831-1836). A separate Appendix contained miscellaneous documents and records pertaining to the second expedition. Darwin’s contribution, Volume III, was called Journal and Remarks, 1832-1836. This four volume set did not sell well.


Later that same year Darwin released his volume as a stand-alone work entitled Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Countries Visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the World. This smaller, and cheaper, volume saw greater sales.

Darwin published several revised editions of this work over the years as it acquired the additional title, A Naturalist’s Voyage, along the way. The Voyage of the Beagle first appeared as its title in the 1905 edition. An illustrated edition had been published in 1890. That 1890 text is the one presented here.


The Origin of Species


After years of thought and further study, in 1859 Darwin published his major work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in The Struggle for Life.


Over the years he revised this work five times to refine his ideas and meet criticisms from contemporaries. Beginning with the sixth edition in 1872 he changed title to The origin of species by means of natural selection… . This sixth edition is considered the definitive one.


Although Darwin’s experiences on the Galapagos contributed to his overall thinking throughout the work, he only mentions the Galapagos Islands specifically in one chapter, “Chapter XIII. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBTION—Continued.”




The Autobiography of Charles Darwin


Between the ages of 67 and 73 Darwin wrote down recollections of his life, primarily to preserve them for his children.


In 1887, five year’s after his father’s death, Darwin’s son, Francis Darwin, edited and published these reminiscences in censored form (to spare the feelings of friends about whom Darwin sometimes made unfavorable remarks, and to protect his father’s reputation from further criticism due to the views he expressed on religion) as a part of a book entitled Life and Letters of Charles Darwin.


In 1958 Nora Barlow, Darwin’s granddaughter, thought it time to present the uncensored version. She published The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, subtitled “With the original omissions restored. Edited and with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow.”


The Autobiography itself includes little information about Darwin’s time in the Galapagos Islands. As he stated, he covers that in his Journal.

This work does provide insight into how he joined the voyage and the process of developing his theory of evolution, as well as the process of publishing The Origin of Species.


Diary, Ornithological Notes, Notebooks


Many years after his visit to the islands, Darwin compiled his published works from his Diary and his Ornithological Notes, both based on numerous field notebooks. Entries in these notebooks vary from one-word notations such as “feast” (describing his meal on Charles Island) and “comet” (acknowledging the sighting of Haley’s Comet) to a long discussion of frigate bird behavior.


In recent years these personal jottings (the notebooks as well as the Diary and Ornithological Notes) have been transcribed and published, primarily by his granddaughter, Nora Barlow, and his great-grandson, Cambridge University professor of physiology, Richard Darwin Keynes (1919-2010). They can be read most easily on the excellent web-site “The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online” at


Read Excerpts from The Voyage of the Beagle:

Chatham Island [San Cristobal]

James Island [Santiago/San Salvador]


Book Publisher ~ Estab 1983