I, a Geologist (Part 2): The geology of Charles Darwin

“When he returned from his voyage, Darwin was already known to its leaders [of all the scientific societies of the metropolis] as a young geologist of great promise, owing to the geological letters he had sent home from South America” (Rudwick 1982, p. 190) This is the second of two articles examining aspects of Charles Darwin as a geologist. In the first part (see I, a Geologist (Part 1): The geology of Charles Darwin), we discussed his early influences produced by natural historians at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge, Darwin’s field education and experience, and his ideas on crustal dynamics. In this final part, we will discuss the application of this geological knowledge after his return from this voyage on The Beagle. Darwin as a palaeontologist “There is nothing like geology; the pleasure of the first day’s partridge-shooting or first day’s hunting cannot be compared to finding a fine group of fossil bones, which tell their stories of former times with almost a living tongue” (Darwin in Parodiz 1981, p. 43) In South America, Darwin collected mainly fossil mammals, which he gave to Sir Richard Owen (1804-1893) to describe. Hunting fossil remains of gigantic quadrupeds, such as Mylodon (Fig. 1), along the Argentinean coast from Buenos Aires to Bahia Blanca, Darwin (1838) was struck by three remarkable facts: The bizarre and monstrous proportions of animals, which became extinct almost in recent times.Their peculiar geographical distribution.The simultaneous, almost incomprehensible disappearance of the whole fauna.Fig. 1. Skeleton of Mylodon sp; height … Read More

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