Daily Archives: 1 February 2014

February 1, 1838 (a Thursday)

Charles Darwin by G Richmond.

On this date, Charles Darwin saw the publication of the first installment (or “number”) of the first volume of The Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle, under the Command of Captain FitzRoy, during the Years 1832 to 1836, of which he was the editor. This was the publication that first brought him to the attention of the general public. In all, there were nineteen numbers that comprised five volumes of the work, which were published as follows:

  • Part 1. Fossil Mammalia (1838 – 1840), by Richard Owen (Preface and Geological introduction by Darwin).
  • Part 2. Mammalia (1838 – 1839), by George R. Waterhouse (Geographical introduction and A notice of their habits and ranges by Darwin).
  • Part 3. Birds (1838 – 1841), by John Gould.
  • Part 4. Fish (1840 – 1842), by Leonard Jenyns.
  • Part 5. Reptiles (1842 – 1843), by Thomas Bell (Darwin also contributed notices of habits and ranges throughout the text of Mammalia and Birds, and the text of the Fish and the Reptiles included numerous notes by him, mostly taken from his labels of specimens.).

Lithograph by artist George Scharf of the fossilized skull of Toxodon platensis

In The Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle, Darwin described the habitats and behaviors of the living species he had collected, and the localities from which his fossils had come. For example, the skull of Toxodon platensis, an enormous extinct mammal belonging to a group without modern descendants, was one of the many spectacular fossils Darwin sent home from South America. Some boys in a remote village in Uruguay had used the skull for target practice and knocked a tooth out with a stone. Darwin bought it from them and was pleased to find a “perfect tooth, which exactly fitted one of the sockets in this skull,” 200 miles away.