Darwin, a naturalist's voyage around the world

STAGE 14

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Le voyage de Darwin

STAGE 14

After the return of the Beagle
Emma Wedgwood, Alfred Wallace, natural selection, origin of species


After this extraordinary voyage around the world, Charles Darwin settled in London, where he got married on 29 January 1839. His wife, Emma Wedgwood, bore him ten children.

His record of the journey, popularly known as The Voyage of the Beagle, met with great success, considerably more so than the account of the expedition written by Captain FitzRoy. In fact, FitzRoy felt some resentment as a result of this. Due to this success, Darwin suddenly found himself Secretary of the Geological Society.

In 1842, suffering from chronic bouts of nausea, dizziness, insomnia and weakness, for which no explanation was ever to be found, he decided to settle in a small village in Kent. There he led a country life, systematically working on the material he had brought back from his voyage. As he had got into the habit of doing on the Beagle, he continued to note down his observations every day in a little yellow notebook. He kept this tradition up until his death in 1882. Although the idea of natural selection appeared evident to him as early as 1836 when he returned home, it took him over twenty years to put his ideas together.

But in summer 1858 something happened which was to speed things up. The naturalist Alfred Wallace asked him for his opinion about the draft of an article in which he set forth the main ideas that Darwin had already long formulated without publishing them. This development hastened the publication in 1859 of The Origin of Species, which enjoyed immediate success. By revealing the mechanism whereby species evolved by adapting to their environment, Darwin's book questioned the religious dogma of the Creation, sparking off a fierce controversy which is still far from dying down in today's world.

CNRS    sagascience