HMS Beagle being hailed by natives of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) - Credit: Conrad Martens (1801-1878)
Difficult to say anything new about a man whose stature stands monolithic on the plains of science. He made popular the notions of natural evolution and the survival of the fittest, put forward in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species
. It is much less well known that he was famous in his day for publishing The Voyage of the Beagle (1839) (read here),
both a travel memoir and scientific field journal,
which provides an account of his five year journey aboard HMS Beagle. His wanderings around the Pacific and his maritime experience connect him neatly with Mitchell's text. Darwin's
ideas did not collide head-on with religion as one might have expected, and many liberal Christians, who did not believe in the Old Testament at a literal level, found Darwin's findings not incompatible with their belief system. God, after all, might have designed man to be self-evolving.