ARTICLE: Why Charles Darwin really was the naturalist on HMS Beagle

Online first from Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences:

“My appointment received the sanction of the Admiralty”: Why Charles Darwin really was the naturalist on HMS Beagle

John van Wyhe

Abstract For decades historians of science and science writers in general have maintained that Charles Darwin was not the ‘naturalist’ or ‘official naturalist’ during the 1831–1836 surveying voyage of HMS Beagle but instead Captain Robert FitzRoy’s ‘companion’, ‘gentleman companion’ or ‘dining companion’. That is, Darwin was primarily the captain’s social companion and only secondarily and unofficially naturalist. Instead, it is usually maintained, the ship’s surgeon Robert McCormick was the official naturalist because this was the default or official practice at the time. Although these views have been repeated in countless accounts of Darwin’s life, this essay aims to show that they are incorrect.

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6 thoughts on “ARTICLE: Why Charles Darwin really was the naturalist on HMS Beagle

  1. Indeed. It was on QI that I first came across the fact about Darwin being the gentleman companion and not the naturalist on the Beagle. The programme’s researchers – whose job it is to find interesting (and usually obscure) facts are lovingly called the ‘elves’. Terrific show, check it out.

  2. Pingback: Darwin:A Geographer | Rashid's Blog

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