In 1809, over 200 hundred years ago, a man who would, in the future, become one of the world’s most well know naturalists and publish a book entitled ‘on the Origin of Species’ was a man called Charles Darwin. Darwin revolutionised the world and the way we see it.
Charles Darwin was interested in natural history and collecting form a very young age – before he even started school. In 1825 Darwin went to the University of Edinburgh Medical School, however he found lectures boring and surgery distressing so he neglected his studies. In his second year, Darwin joined a natural history group, and he learned the classification of plants, and assisted with work on the collections of the University Museum, one of the largest museums in Europe at the time. He was then sent to Cambridge University where his cousin William Darwin Fox introduced him to the popular craze for beetle collecting which Darwin pursued with much enthusiasm, getting some of his finds published in Stevens' Illustrations of British entomology.
On the 27th of December 1831 Darwin set off on the Voyage of the Beagle with Robert Fitzroy, the voyage lasted almost five years and Darwin spent most of that time on land investigating geology and making natural history collections. He kept notes of his observations and at intervals during the voyage, his specimens were sent to Cambridge.
At St. Jago, Darwin found that a white band high in the volcanic rock cliffs included seashells. Fitzroy had given him the first volume of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology which set out uniformitarian concepts of land slowly rising or falling over immense periods.
At Punta Alta in Patagonia he made a major find of fossil bones of huge extinct mammals in cliffs beside modern seashells, indicating recent extinction with no signs of change in climate or catastrophe.
Further south he saw stepped plains of shingle and seashells as raised beaches showing a series of elevations. He read Lyell's second...