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Evolution's Captain: The Story of the Kidnapping That Led to Charles Darwin's Voyage Aboard the Beagle Paperback – June 29, 2004
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Readers familiar with how Darwin developed his theory of evolution will recognize the HMS Beagle as the ship that took him on his research expedition, but that's probably the extent of their knowledge of the vessel. Nichols (A Voyage for Madmen, etc.) fills in the gaps with this biography of Robert FitzRoy, the Beagle's second captain. In 1828, FitzRoy took command after the first captain went mad and killed himself. Picking up where his predecessor left off charting the waters off South America, FitzRoy captured several natives and brought them back to England so they could be taught the ways of Western civilization. Complications required their immediate return, and it was FitzRoy's request for a traveling companion of equal social status on this hastily planned journey that resulted in Darwin's coming aboard. Nichols, who has taught creative writing at Georgetown and NYU, picks his narrative details well, fleshing out FitzRoy's personality and his shifting relationship with Darwin (though initially friendly, the captain came to violently reject his traveling companion's scientific conclusions). The bulk of the story is devoted to FitzRoy's two missions for the Royal Navy, both of which made him a well-known figure in England. The final chapters trace his eventual downfall, though emphasizing the "dark fate" in the subtitle is rather misleading. Though the author's enthusiasm for his subject can lead to hyperbole, it'll prove hard not to share his fascination with how FitzRoy's naval career inadvertently set off a scientific controversy still flaring to this day. 8 illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
HMS Beagle set off in 1831 under the command of a promising young aristocrat, Robert Fitzroy. The expedition to map parts of the South American coast would last years, and Fitzroy eagerly desired an educated companion to help stave off the boredom and isolation that drove Fitzroy's previous captain to suicide in Tierra del Fuego. The companion chosen was an aimless student named Charles Darwin. Of course, Fitzroy's work and career were ultimately eclipsed by those of Darwin, who, at the time, represented little more than an afterthought. Nichols details Fitzroy's previous voyage to South America and presents a complicated web of cause and effect that led to the Beagle's next expedition and Darwin's participation in it, yet the book is supposed to be more a biography of the captain forgotten by history. It goes on to describe his post-Beagle career and his opposition to Darwin's developing ideas. Fitzroy's story is interesting reading, but even Nichols seems inclined to pay more attention to Darwin. Regardless, this historical account is definitely worth reading. Gavin Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The life of Robert Fitzroy is so interesting and fascinating. In his first voyage he took three natives back to England and they spent two years there until the second voyage, where these natives were brought back to their "countries" and also was the moment for Darwin to accompany Fitzroy as a naturalist. The story of these yaghans, the descriptions of its life and customs, the time spent in England and how they were put back with his people make this story worthy of admiration, worthy for a PBS/BBC documentary. One of these indians lived in Navarino Island, a place my mother lived in the 1960s, in the little Chilean city of Puerto Williams -- another reason for reading this book. I can only recommend all the readers to travel to the south of Chile, you can go to Punta Arenas and from there to know the Magellan Strait, cross to Tierra del Fuego and even go to Navarine island and to know the Beagle Channel ... those are just captivating and precious landscapes., you won't be regretted.
In my opinion, Fitzroy should be known more in my country, he is part of it, and this book or another biography is for sure a pleasant reading. This book is precious, commendable for lovers of exploration and the reading is fluid. I wish I could take a course in "creative writing" with this author.
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Takes you back in time and puts you
Into the world before evolution was understood.