Ship’s naturalist?

steamer duck

Darwin's specimen of a steamer duck (Tachyeres brachypterus). Courtesy of the University Museum of Zoology Cambridge.

By tradition, it was the ship’s surgeon who was responsible for collecting specimens on behalf of the Admiralty. Darwin did not have an official position on board; he acted as companion to Captain FitzRoy and only unofficially as naturalist. He was very well aware of the advantages of this independent status as it allowed him to dispose of his specimen collections as he wished. Over the course of the voyage, he carefully packed and shipped many dozens of packets and barrels, jars and pill-boxes, containing thousands of specimens back to Britain, most of them arriving on Henslow’s doorstep in Cambridge.