- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Abridged edition (November 7, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014043268X
- ISBN-13: 978-0140432688
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Voyage of the Beagle: Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches (Penguin Classics) Abridged Edition
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About the Author
Charles Darwin, a Victorian scientist and naturalist, has become one of the most famous figures of science to date. Born in 1809 to an upper-middle-class medical family, he was destined for a career in either medicine or the Anglican Church. However, he never completed his medical education and his future changed entirely in 1831 when he joined HMS Beagle as a self-financing, independent naturalist. On returning to England in 1836 he began to write up his theories and observations which culminated in a series of books, most famously On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, where he challenged and contradicted contemporary biological and religious beliefs with two decades worth of scientific investigation and theory. Darwin's theory of natural selection is now the most widely accepted scientific model of how species evolve. He died in 1882 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Damien Hirst is an internationally renowned English artist, who has dominated the art scene in England since the 1990s. Known in particular for his series of works on death, Hirst here provides a contemporary, visual take on Darwin's theory of evolution - the struggle between life and death in nature.
William Bynum is Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine at University College, London, and was for many years Head of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He edited the scholarly journal Medical History from 1980 to 2001, and his previous publications include Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century; The Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine (co-edited with Roy Porter); The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (with Roy Porter), The Dictionary of Medical Biography (with Helen Bynum), and History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Suffolk.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself; the greater number of its inhabitants, both vegetable and animal, being found nowhere else. As I shall refer to this subject again, I will only here remark, as forming a striking character on first landing, that the birds are strangers to man. So tame and unsuspecting were they, that they did not even understand what was meant by stones being thrown at them; and quite regardless of us, they approached so close that any number of them might have been killed with a stick.
The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored in several bays. One night I slept on shore, on a part of the island where some black cones – the former chimneys of the subterranean heated fluids – were extraordinarily numerous. From one small eminence, I counted sixty of these truncated hillocks, which were all surmounted by a more or less perfect crater. The greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae, or slags, cemented together: and their height above the plain of lave, was not more than from 50 to 100 feet. From their regular form, they gave the country a workshop appearance, which strongly reminded me of those parts of Stratfordshire where the great iron foundries are most numerous.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was influenced enough by this book to actually study zoology as my major in university, and though eventually I took a career in another scientific field, I retained my love of the natural world. Eventually almost a half century after reading "Voyage", I was able to visit Patagonia and actually see a house where Darwin lived, and see some of the animals and plants that he found so intriguing. They ARE intriguing. I couldn't see enough of it.
Not all the book is uplifting; the sad story of the Fuegan natives who were despised (and ultimately murdered even into the Twentieth Century) is the part of the book I find so disturbing. The natives were resourceful and able to live in the harshest environment. Their tools (harpoons, spears, canoes) are a marvel of invention. But Darwin calls them "miserable, degraded savages." No one who sees their artifacts now could even conceive of that. The fact that only one living person of one of the major seven groups of canoe peoples is even alive today is utterly depressing and tragic.
If you love nature and natural history, this is a must-read.
Evolution. For travelers to South America it provides a good comparison to current geopolitical conditions and those that existed at that time.
He spends a good part of the book describing the social and political situations that existed and not just his observations of the natural world
as you would expect.
The "scientific detail" cited by another reviewer did not bog down the prose at all, a remarkable feat....a talent also found in Thoreau. The famed passage on The Galapagos was indeed interesting. But the most scientifically intriguing passages, I found, had to do with barrier reefs and atolls and how they come to be...I almost said "evolve"....But perhaps that would be premature for this book. In any event, I've never read a scientific account so riveting and fascinating as Darwin's on this subject given herein.
But, as I say, I learned quite a bit about Darwin as a young man, ready for adventure, risks, and brimming with curiosity. He is almost as much a poet as scientist in some passages, quoting Shelley at one point, and he fortifies his narrative with a poignancy absent in most scientific accounts. This stylistic flavour is evident in many passages, but I'll just proffer one from the end of the narrative:
"In my walk I stopped again and again to gaze upon these beauties, and endevoured to fix in my mind and for ever, an impression which at the time I knew sooner or later must fail. The form of the orange-tree, the cocoa-nut, the palm, the mango, the tree-fern, the banana, will remain clear and separate; but the thousand beauties which unite these into one perfect scene must fade away: yet they will leave, like a tale heard in childhood, a picture full of indistinct, but most beautiful figures." (P.444, in my edition)
Whether as poetic or scientific, this work is virtuosic and unsurpassed in its seamless melding of the two. I'll leave the reader to decide which s/he enjoys the most.