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Charles Darwin in Australia

by F W Nicholas; J M Nicholas

  Print book : Biography  |  Anniversary ed

Charles Darwin in Australia    (2013-01-12)

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by wppalmer

Review of Charles Darwin in Australia by F. W. & J. M. Nicholas, published by Cambridge University Press in 2002.

Reviewed by Dr W. P. Palmer

This is a well-written and scholarly book that describes Charles Darwin's brief visits to various parts of Australia between January and March 1836. Darwin obtained the position of gentleman naturalist (self-funded) with Captain Robert FitzRoy, on HMS Beagle mainly as a companion to FitzRoy through the good offices of his tutor and friend at Cambridge, John Henslow. The Beagle's voyage lasted for almost five years and the three months in Australia were near the end of the voyage. It is sometimes thought that Darwin's visit to Australia was an unproductive period for him. This book indicates Darwin's capacity for hard work and original thought, showing how various incidents in Australia influenced his later ideas and his writing. The book is 214 pages long and details Darwin's extensive travels in New South Wales, which amount to about half the book, his visit to Tasmania and to Albany in Western Australia.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that Darwin never visited the town of Darwin in the Northern Territory, though it was named in his honour. The paperback edition contains 17 pages of black and white photographs, which add to the book's interest. The narrative can get a little dull at times, but Darwin's friendship with his shipmates, his normal kindness and occasional snobbery, does present him as a more human character than is often revealed by books concentrating on his theories. Readers who have visited Australia and followed some parts of his journeys will find that many of the animals and much of the scenery that Darwin observed can still be observed today.

This book is recommended.


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