Charles Darwin was a young naturalist who was traveling on the HMS Beagle for several years, and he kept this journal of his researches and developing ideas.
The excitement of Darwin, the young naturalist, is conveyed in passages such as, "This was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten," and "What incalculable numbers of these microscopial animals!"
One can see the development of his ideas, in passages such as, "Certainly, no fact in the long history of the world is so startling as the wide and repeated exterminations of its inhabitants," and "We are therefore driven to the conclusion that causes generally quite inappreciable by us, determine whether a given species shall be abundant or scanty in numbers."
Concerning his famous observations of the different varieties of finches, he says, "one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends. In a like manner it might be fancied that a bird originally a buzzard, had been induced to undertake the office of the carrion-feeding Polybori of the American continent," and that "one is astonished at the amount of creative force, if such an expression may be used, displayed on these small, barren, and rocky islands; and still more so, at its diverse yet analogous action on points so near each other."
Darwin's racist ideas (which were typical of his time) are also articulated: "I could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilized man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement." But he also criticizes "the Catholic desire of making at one blow Christians and Slaves," and writes, "I thank God I shall never again visit a slave-country." "It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants ... are so guilty; but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin."
This book is absolutely essential reading for students of Darwin and the history of evolutionary theory.
We're going to take a little vacation, and along with getting house-sitters lined up, I've been thinking about what to take to read. Don't know yet, but I keep coming back to the best book I ever read while on a trip. It's Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. Now available as a free pdf, 35 years ago the edition I took along was a quality paperback that still is in one piece despite being consulted many times. It was just the right … more