Exhibition Captions

1st case | 2nd case | 3rd case | 4th case | 5th case | 6th case | 7th case | 8th case | 9th case | 10th case | 11th case


Darwin’s plan of his Beagle cabin
Darwin and two of the crew shared the poop cabin, which was 10 ft (3m) by 11 ft (3.4m). Darwin’s pencil annotations mark the all-important bookcases.
DAR 44: 16

Sulivan’s sketch of Darwin’s hammock
In this letter written after Darwin’s death, Admiral Sir Bartholomew Sulivan reminisced to Darwin’s son, Francis, about his time as junior lieutenant aboard the Beagle. His sketch shows the position of Darwin’s hammock.
DAR 107: 45

Model of the Beagle
The Beagle, a Cherokee-class ten-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, embarked on her first surveying expedition in 1826. Robert FitzRoy, her captain from 1828, had her extensively modified before the 1831 voyage when she carried a 74-man crew. This 1:40 scale model is as accurate as records allow and is open to show the poop cabin.
Professor Simon Keynes



Albert Way’s caricature of Darwin on a beetle
As a student, Darwin spent so much of his time collecting beetles that Albert Way, one of his university friends, drew this caricature of him riding his “hobby”. Way, who became an antiquary and traveller, was a pioneer of systematic archaeology.
DAR 204: 29

Letter from John Stevens Henslow to Darwin, 24 August 1831
After graduating from Cambridge, Darwin went with Professor Adam Sedgwick on a geological tour of North Wales.  When Darwin returned home, this letter from Henslow was waiting for him with news of the Beagle expedition. Sedgwick’s training stood Darwin in good stead for collecting rocks and minerals on the voyage.
DAR 97: B4-5 (S 105)

Darwin’s list of his father’s objections to the Beagle voyage
Robert Waring Darwin had already paid for his son to spend two years studying medicine in Edinburgh and three and a half years taking a degree at Cambridge; he was reluctant to fund a dangerous voyage with no career benefits. Darwin listed his father’s objections and sent them to his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood II, asking for his help in countering them.  In the face of his brother-in-law’s support for the scheme, Robert Darwin capitulated.
DAR 97: B10

Alexander von Humboldt, Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the new continent, during the years 1799-1804, translated into English by H. M. Williams (London, 1814-29), vols 1 & 2 (bound together)
Humboldt was one of the first to describe the geographical distribution of plants in South America. Henslow gave Darwin a set of the Personal narrative for the expedition and these were probably the most influential of the books Darwin took with him. He kept them for the rest of his life.

Herbarium sheet: Matthiola sinuata
Darwin attended Professor Henslow’s series of botany lectures three times and went with him on plant-collecting expeditions around Cambridge.  These specimens of the rare Matthiola sinuata from Henslow’s herbarium are the earliest known to have been collected by Darwin, when he was geologizing with Professor Sedgwick in Barmouth, North Wales, in August 1831. The arrangement of several plants on one sheet, called “collation”, enabled Henslow to analyse the extent of variation within a species.
The University Herbarium



Alexander von Humboldt, Political essay on the kingdom of New Spain, translated into English by J. Black (London, 1811), vols 1 & 2
There may have been as many as 300 books on board the Beagle.  The captain and officers pooled their collections to form a single library for all to share. Darwin’s own books included travel writings, scientific textbooks and a Spanish dictionary. He acquired more as the voyage progressed, requesting many in letters to his family.

Geological specimen from Cape Verde Islands (3898)
The Cape Verde archipelago, 375 miles (600 km) off the coast of West Africa, is volcanic in origin. Four and a half years after her first visit, the Beagle called at the Cape Verde Islands on 31 August 1836 for six days. Darwin collected this vesicular basalt near Praia, Santiago: the distinctive holes or vesicles were formed by gas bubbles trapped in the cooling lava and the grey outer crust was formed by weathering at the Earth’s surface.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

Geological specimen from St Paul’s rocks (240)
St Peter and St Paul’s Islets lie about 600 miles (1000 km) ENE of Natal, a city in north-eastern Brazil.  This is serpentinite, created when seawater penetrates fissures deep in the seabed and reacts with certain volcanic rocks. Darwin visited these bare islets on 16 February 1832 and later he realised that, unlike the Cape Verde Islands, they were not volcanic in origin. Not only rocks fell victim to Darwin’s hammer: FitzRoy later described how “The first impulse of our invaders of this bird-covered rock was to lay about them like schoolboys; even the geological hammer became a missile”.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

Letter from John Coldstream to Darwin, 13 September 1831
Darwin asked everyone he knew to advise him on his requirements for the voyage.  An Edinburgh University friend sent this letter describing an oyster trawl and Darwin had a special net made for collecting marine specimens.
DAR 204: 64 (S 124)

Letter from Robert FitzRoy to Darwin, 23 September 1831
Darwin and FitzRoy corresponded about arrangements before the voyage. Humboldt’s Personal narrative was a standard work for travellers, especially to South America, and, despite the limited space on board, FitzRoy proposed in this letter that he and Darwin each take their own copies. Part of Darwin's set is displayed in case 2.
DAR 204: 105 (S 135)



Geological specimen from Santa Cruz River, Patagonia, Argentina (1986)
Darwin collected this specimen on 29 April 1834, when FitzRoy, Darwin and some of the Beagle’s officers and crew ventured inland, taking three boats up the river. This rock is basalt: it was erupted from a volcano. The dark groundmass contains large, well formed, glassy crystals of the mineral feldspar. These crystallized first whilst the rest of the rock was still molten.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

Fossil crinoid stems from the Falkland Islands (1943)
Crinoids, also known as sea-lilies or feather-stars, are related to starfish and sea urchins and have many slender arms around a central mouth. The fossils, the oldest Darwin found on the Beagle voyage, are preserved as “moulds” in sandstone after the original shell material has dissolved away. Darwin collected this specimen near Johnson’s Harbour, East Falkland, in March 1834.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

“Plate 13.”: Caberea minima
This red bryozoan, which Darwin first called Crisia, was fished up from 10 fathoms (18m) off the coast of Patagonia in May 1834. Darwin observed it carefully under his microscope and drew it in great detail.
DAR 29.3: 58b

Crisia microscope slides
Darwin’s experiments showed that the movable bristles of this primitive organism responded to changes in its surroundings. However, the precise function of the vibracula, as the bristles are called, remains unknown.
The University Museum of Zoology

Letters from Fanny Owen to Darwin, [6 Oct 1831] and 1 March 1832
The Owens were friends and neighbours of the Darwins in Shrewsbury and both families thought Charles and Fanny might one day marry. In her first letter, written just before the voyage, Fanny told Darwin that when he returned he would find her “. . . in status quo at the Forest, only grown old & sedate”, but when she wrote her second letter she was already engaged to Robert Myddelton-Biddulph of Chirk Castle, Wrexham, whom she married on 31 May 1832.
DAR 204: 53 (S 141) and DAR 204: 55 (S 162)

Letter from Robert Waring Darwin to his son, 7 March 1833
Darwin’s three sisters took turns to write him a letter each month full of news and gossip. In the only known letter from Darwin’s father Robert Waring Darwin, a doctor, joked that, as he only wrote to patients, he had nothing to say to Charles. However, he went on to describe a banana tree which he had bought for his new hothouse, so that he could sit under it and think about his son in the Tropics.
DAR 204: 94 (S 201)

Letter from Erasmus Alvey Darwin to his brother, 18 August [1832]
This is the only known letter which Erasmus sent to his brother on the Beagle. Three shillings and sixpence in 1832 was worth more than £10 in today’s money. Darwin received the letter on 14 November in Monte Video. Erasmus, who was living in London, explained that “if you do not hear very often from me it is you may be very sure not from want of love, but [fr]om indolence”.
DAR 204:  93

Brazilian beetles
Beetle hunting had been Darwin’s hobby in Cambridge, and beetles were among the first specimens he collected in South America. The Beagle beetle specimens in Cambridge, which were despatched to Charles Cardale Babington, a founding member of the Cambridge Entomological Society, consist of 125 water beetles from two families: the Hydrophilidae or water scavenger beetles (104 specimens, 20 species) and the Gyrinidae or whirligig beetles (21 specimens, 7 species). Most of them were collected in South America. Only nine of these species can be reliably linked to a particular locality.

From top to bottom:
Hydrous palpalis Brullé   (Family Hydrophilidae), collected in Maldonado, Uruguay, in 1833.
Neohydrophilus politus Castelnau (Family Hydrophilidae), collected in South America, probably in 1832.
Tropisternus lateralis Fabricius (2 specimens) (Family Hydrophilidae), collected in South America, probably in 1832.
Enhydrus sulcatus Wiedermann (Family Gyrinidae), collected in June 1832 in Rio de Janeiro. Darwin found it in a “rapid brook in the forest” and noted that it emitted “an odour like G.[Gyrinus] natator [a British species]”.
The University Museum of Zoology



Conrad Martens, Sketchbook III
HMS Beagle off Tierra del Fuego: in the distance on the left of the snow-covered range are the distinctive twin peaks of Mount Sarmiento, described by Darwin as “a sublime spectacle” (S 248).
MS.Add.7983: 32v

Letter from Robert FitzRoy to his sister Fanny, 4 April 1834
Martens replaced Augustus Earle, who fell ill and returned home. Martens himself left the expedition at Valparaiso in Chile a year later; he then crossed the Pacific and settled in Sydney, Australia, where Darwin and FitzRoy later visited him; they both ordered finished oil paintings based on his sketches.
MS.Add.8853: 114

Letter from Darwin to his sister Caroline, 30 March – 12 April 1833
This letter was written from the Falkland Islands; Darwin had seen the Fuegians since he had last written home from Monte Video in November (S 188). “No drawing or description will at all explain the extreme interest which is created by the first sight of savages.— It is an interest which almost repays one for a cruize in these latitudes; & this I assure you is saying a good deal.”
DAR 223: 16 (S 203)



Geological specimen 3887
The rectangular paper with numerals printed on it is one of Darwin’s original specimen labels: the numerals correspond to consecutive entries in his field notebooks and specimen catalogue. This label was originally yellow and the colour identified those specimens with numbers between 3000 and 3999. The specimen itself is a weathered and decomposed igneous rock.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

Darwin's notes on preparing specimens
Darwin had a list of instructions for preparing different kinds of specimens. He often noted where he had obtained the advice: “jars, first half putrid bladder, then 2 coverings of Lead or Tin foil, not large enough to be tied down, then bladder again, then varnish. Yarrell”. William Yarrell (1784–1856) wrote standard works on British birds and fishes and was an original member of the Zoological Society of London.
DAR 29.3: 78

Letter from John Stevens Henslow to Darwin, 15 & 21 January [1833]
Henslow sent detailed advice on preparing specimens after receiving Darwin’s first batch, some of which were unrecognisable by the time they reached Cambridge.  The sketch shows a method for mounting large pinnate leaves, folding some over so that both surfaces could be seen. 
DAR 204: 111 (S 196)

Herbarium sheet: Phlebodium areolatum
Darwin collected this fern from James Island (now Santiago) in the Galápagos and followed Henslow’s advice to fold over some of the leaves.
The University Herbarium



The loggerheaded or steamer duck (Tachyeres patachonicus) and its entry in the specimen list
This bird was collected by Darwin in Tierra del Fuego. It feeds on shellfish from tidal rocks and hence, Darwin noted, “the beak and head . . . are surprisingly heavy and strong: . . . I have scarcely been able to fracture [the head] with my geological hammer”.
The University Museum of Zoology (duck); DAR 29.3: 77 (specimen list)

Seriolychthis bipinnulata
This fish was collected in April 1836 near the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, in the Indian Ocean. Darwin described it in his specimen list: “Band on side ‘Azure blue’. Above a duller greenish blue; beneath two metallic greenish stripes: lower half of body snow white”.
The University Museum of Zoology

Leonard Jenyns’s manuscript notes on the Beagle Fish
The fish now known as Seriolychthis bipinnulata was described by Jenyns as Seriola bipinnulata. Jenyns, a friend of Darwin's since his Cambridge days,  made a rigorous study of the Beagle expedition fishes, a challenge for someone who had previously worked only on British species. Jenyns was Henslow's son-in-law and had been considered for a place on board the Beagle before it was offered to Darwin.
The University Museum of Zoology

Letter from Thomas Campbell Eyton to Darwin, 12 November 1833
Eyton, a keen naturalist from a Shropshire family, was at Cambridge with Darwin. He advised his friend when packing his specimens, especially skins, to “beware of the insects” lest there be “but a few feathers and beaks & legs remaining when you return”.
DAR 204: 118 (S 228)



Notes about fossil wood from Chiloé
In December 1834 Darwin first encountered fossilised wood on Chiloé, an island about 120 miles (190 km) long off the coast of Chile. The “medullary rays” are the structures in the tree trunk that run from the centre to its outer edges, like the spokes of a wheel.
DAR 40: 56

Darwin’s Chilean passport
Chile was proclaimed an independent republic in 1818; José Joaquín Prieto (1786-1854) was the country’s fourth president and Joaquín Tocornal (1788-1865) vice-president. They were in office together from 1831 to 1841.
DAR 44: 29

FitzRoy atlas: tracing of Chiloé survey map; letter from Robert FitzRoy to his sister Fanny, 18 January 1836
Charts based on the survey data were drawn up at the table in the poop cabin, perhaps by the assistant surveyor, John Lort Stokes. The Beagle’s measurements showed that an earlier Spanish map had made Chiloé 25 miles (40 km) too long. When the inhabitants heard that the surveyors had “cut off twenty-five miles of their island”, they thought the English had captured part of it and rose up in support. The Beagle crew helped to restore calm on the island.
DAR 270.5; MS.Add. 8853: 135-6

Letter from Robert FitzRoy to his sister Fanny, 6 November 1834
The Beagle, together with a second ship, the Adventure, which FitzRoy had bought in March 1833 to assist in the survey work,arrived at Valparaiso in July 1834. There FitzRoy was informed that the Admiralty would not reimburse his purchase, so the Adventure was sold and some of the crew, including the artist Conrad Martens, disbanded. FitzRoy became very despondent and considered resigning his commission.
MS.Add. 8853: 125

Forest of Chiloé
Conrad Martens drew this in Sketchbook I on 9 July 1834. Darwin found the weather on Chiloé very dismal. Pigs and potatoes were as plentiful as in Ireland, he told his sister Catherine in a letter of July 1834, but “Chiloe, from its climate is a miserable hole” (S 248).
MS.Add. 7984: 29

Herbarium sheet: Galium aparine
Among the common English names for this plant are goosegrass and sticky-weed; one of the specimens on this sheet is Galium antarcticum, found only in the southern hemisphere. They were collected by Darwin from the Chonos archipelago, a group of sparsely inhabited islands off the coast of Chile, south of Chiloé.
The University Herbarium



Alexander Caldcleugh’s sketch map of Cordilleras
Caldcleugh, a merchant and plant collector, had travelled extensively in South America, settling in Chile at Santiago. This map shows, on the left, Santiago and, on the right, San Fernando, which is about 80 miles (130 km) south of Santiago.
DAR 35.2: 405
Alexander Caldcleugh, Travels in South America, during the years, 1819-20-21: containing an account of the present state of Brazil, Buenos Ayres, and Chile (London, 1825)
In his letter to his sister Catherine of 22 May – 14 July 1833, Darwin asked to be sent, among other titles, “Caldcleugh travels in S. America” and on 15 October his sister Susan replied that they had passed on his request to their brother, Erasmus, in London; Darwin received at Valparaiso in July 1834 a box which probably contained the book.
Frontispiece to vol. 1: “The usual walking costume of Lima.”
Frontispiece to vol. 2: “Crossing the Cordillera on the 1st of June.”

Darwin’s geological map of South America
Hand-coloured and with annotations by Darwin. This map shows the land south of Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina, including the BeagleChannel, charted by the ship on an earlier voyage and named for her.
DAR 44: 13

Darwin’s cross-section of South American geology
Darwin crossed the Piuquenes and Portillo passes, in the southern central Andes east of Santiago, in March 1835; his suspicions that the mountains had been uplifted in phases relatively recently in geological history were confirmed by later geologists.
DAR 44: 33

Letter from Darwin to his sister Susan, 23 April 1835 
Darwin was so excited about his travels across the Andes and his geological speculations that he explained his ideas in detail to his sister. The journey “has however been very expensive: I am sure my Father would not regret it, if he could know how deeply I have enjoyed it.”
DAR 223: 27 (S 275)

Red notebook geological speculations
The first part of the notebook from which this page was later cut was used by Darwin on the Beagle in the closing months of the voyage. The second part seems to have been started in London in January 1837 and entries show Darwin’s thoughts on the elevation and subsidence of the Earth’s crust. Here Darwin speculates about the geology of Tierra del Fuego. On the back of the notebook Darwin wrote “Nothing For any Purpose”.
DAR 5: 86r


DAR ref. for coral reefs map

Charles Lyell, Principles of geology (London, 1830-3), vol. 2, pp. 290-1
Darwin took volume 1 with him; he received volume 2, published after his departure, at Monte Video. Geologists at the time thought that the Pacific was an area of general volcanic action and Lyell considered that atolls were formed by corals growing over the tops of submarine volcanoes. Although Darwin overturned his theory on coral formation, Lyell's emphasis on the cumulative effect of small, incremental, changes over long periods of time, was a major influence on Darwin's own thinking.

Letter from Catherine Darwin to her brother, 30 October 1835
Darwin’s family were concerned that some of his collections might have been lost with HMS Challenger, a small warship wrecked off Chile in May 1835. News that the crew were stranded on shore reached FitzRoy in Valparaiso, 400 miles (700 km) north of the shipwreck, in mid June and he organised a rescue mission.
DAR 97: B22-3 (S 287)

Darwin’s notes from the Galápagos
As the Beagle sailed homeward in the summer of 1836, Darwin wrote up his notes and reflected on the relationship of the varieties and species of both plants and birds that he had found on the archipelagos. This page reveals a hint of his new idea.   
DAR 29.2: 74
James Island is now called Floreana.
DAR 37.2: 773
Herbarium sheet: Sicyos villosa
When Darwin landed on Charles Island (now Isla Santa Maria) after a particularly wet season, this scrambling vine, related to squashes and cucumbers, was rampant. However, later visitors never mention the plant. It appears to have become extinct shortly afterwards and this herbarium sheet is the only evidence of its existence.
The University Herbarium

Cross-section of a coral reef island
Darwin, observing the evidence for massive uplift in the Andes, suggested – before he had ever seen a reef – that there was compensatory subsidence in the Pacific, so that atolls were formed from the upward-growing fringing reefs of volcanoes which had sunk far beneath the waves.
DAR 44: 24

Darwin’s annotated printed map of coral reefs around the world
When Darwin returned, his theory of the origin of coral reefs, communicated to the Geological Society of London on 31 May 1837, made his scientific reputation: Lyell was immediately convinced and subsequent test borings in the Pacific islands confirmed Darwin’s explanation. This map, from the first edition of The structure and distribution of coral reefs (London, 1842), has some annotations by Darwin, including the calculation and the note at the bottom, which appears to read “Add Roy. | Lovatt’s Isd.” Leavitt’s Island, west of Caroline Island, was added in the second edition (London, 1874).

Writing box
This “necessaire de voyage” contains writing-equipment: the silver inkwell cover is hallmarked 1831. The box is believed to have belonged to Darwin; it is associated with one of his Shrewsbury schoolfellows, William Allport Leighton, who later edited the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society and corresponded with Darwin on botanical subjects.
Mr D. Evans



"Pl. 20" Arthrobalanus
When Darwin came to write up this Beagle barnacle specimen, which he called “Mr Arthrobalanus” (now Cryptophialus minutus), he discovered that it displayed many anomalies. As a result he spent eight years, from 1846 to 1854, determining the taxonomy of both fossil and living Cirripedia(barnacles).
DAR 29.3: 72
Barnacle slides
Darwin’s work on barnacles necessitated demanding micro-dissection and he was very skilled at working with his microscope. Many of these slides were mounted using pitch, which has since spread.
The University Museum of Zoology

Charles Darwin, A monograph on the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ, (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. (London, 1854), vol. 2, pp. 32-3
This is the second of Darwin’s two volumes on living Cirripedia, the first being published in 1851; he also published two volumes on fossil Cirripedia, in 1851 and 1854.
Manuscript page of Living Cirripedia
The few manuscript pages of Cirripedia seem to have been kept because they have children’s drawings on the back. The text on this sheet appears on page 33 of the volume described above.
DAR 185: 61 iii 

Manuscript sheets of On the origin of species by means of natural selection
Darwin’s initial thoughts on species appear in the Beagle notes. He began writing up his “Big book” on species in 1856, but in 1858 he received a letter from the naturalist and collector Alfred Russel Wallace describing similar ideas.  As a result, Darwin hastily commenced Origin, a condensed version of his theory,published in 1859. Only a few manuscript leaves remain, many apparently preserved by the family not for their own sake but because of the sketches by his children on the back.
DAR 185.109: 6 (drawing); image of writing

Expression notebook
Darwin’s only reference in Origin to the implications of his theories for human development was the hint that “Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history”. It was twelve years before he published The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex, in 1871. However, he had been collecting material in notebooks for many years – this one was in use when he lived in Great Marlborough Street, London, between 1837 and 1839.
DAR 126

Observations on his children
Darwin carefully observed his own children: the eldest, William, was born in 1839, and his tenth child and sixth son, Charles Waring, in 1856. He had intended to include a chapter on expression in Descent, but he eventually used these researches in his book The expression of the emotions in man and animals, published in 1872.
DAR 210.11: 1

Expression photographs
As part of his work on human development, Darwin built up a collection of photographs, many (including the two cartes-de-visite here) sent to him by James Crichton-Browne, the superintendent of the West Riding Lunatic Asylum at Wakefield in Yorkshire.
The photographer Oscar Rejlander imitated a child crying (left) and laughing (right) to show the similarity in the expressions. Darwin commissioned Rejlander to take photographs to illustrate Expression.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) took this photograph of Flora Rankin in 1863: it was entitled “No lessons today”. Dodgson sent Darwin this picture in 1872 after Expression was published.
DAR 53.2

Charles Darwin, On the origin of species by means of natural selection (London, 1859)
This copy of the first edition was presented to Alfred Russel Wallace. Darwin wrote to Wallace, “I hope there will be some little new to you, but I fear not much.” (S 2529) When Origin was published in November 1859, all 1250 copies sold out within a day.

The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, Plate 16
Darwin saw mockingbirds in abundance in South America and concluded they formed a single species. On his first expedition on the Galápagos, on Chatham Island (San Cristóbal), he saw mockingbirds which he thought were the same species, but later on Charles Island (Floreana) he found a different mockingbird (illustrated here) and afterwards paid particular attention to collecting them.

Photograph of Darwin and his eldest son William
This image was taken from a daguerreotype of Darwin and his eldest son, William Erasmus, taken on 23 August 1842, when William was two and a half years old. The daguerreotype was an early type of photograph in which the image was exposed directly onto a mirror-finished metal plate.
DAR 225: 130