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The HMS Beagle Sets Sail on a Historic Voyage

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

#14 Science in History

27 December 1831

HMS Beagle leaves Plymouth harbour on December 27th 1831 under Captain Robert FitzRoy. Its 73-man crew included the young 22-year-old Charles Darwin, whose role on the Beagle was to serve as a companion to the captain, naturalist and geologist. He was responsible for collecting specimens, making observations, and recording his findings in journals. This work helped him develop his theory of evolution by natural selection which he later published in ‘On The Origin Of Species’.

HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan R. T. Pritchett - The Popular Science Monthly, Volume 57 p. 87, reproduction of frontispiece from Darwin, Charles (1890),

During their five-year voyage, Darwin and Fitzroy developed a strong friendship that lasted for many years after their return to England. As time went on, their views began to diverge; while Fitzroy became increasingly religious and conservative, Darwin's ideas about evolution were becoming more radical. Despite this difference in opinion, they remained friends until Fitzroy's death in 1865.

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