'All idle men and entomologists’

Darwin's student friend, Albert Way, drew this caricature of him. CUL DAR 204, f. 29

Darwin came up to Christ’s College in October 1827 and spent three years happily doing what most students do: having a good time. He partied and enjoyed ‘snug breakfasts’ with friends, but he also hunted beetles and his passion for natural history was fostered by his teachers, Adam Sedgwick, Professor of Geology, and John Stevens Henslow, Professor of Botany.

The relief and euphoria of graduation over, the 22-year-old’s future was uncertain; his family assumed he would become an Anglican clergyman. Then Henslow put his name forward as companion to Captain Robert FitzRoy, commander of the Beagle, and as unofficial ship’s naturalist: ‘I think you are the very man they are in search of.’   Darwin’s father was reluctantly persuaded to let him go, Darwin’s uncle, Josiah Wedgwood, arguing that although ‘the undertaking would be useless as regards his profession…looking upon him as a man of enlarged curiosity, it affords him such an opportunity of seeing men and things as happens to few’.