A Birthday Shoutout to Charles Darwin | Galapagos Unbound

In honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday today, February 12, we have put together some quotes to celebrate the illustrious man. Of course, Darwin has gone down in history as a celebrated naturalist whose book, The Origin of Species, changed the way we look at the world and initiated studies of adaptive radiation. And sure, Darwin played a ginormous role in the history of the Galápagos Islands, where he first started collecting evidence to support his theories of natural selection by noticing the differences between finches and tortoises across the archipelago.

But who ever imagined that solemn, white-bearded man we so often picture riding atop giant Galápagos tortoises? Or taking a chew out of a beetle he found while island hopping? Take a gander at the quotes below to learn more about the man who went on a Galápagos voyage that changed everything.  

Darwin as tortoise-wrangler:

“I was always amused when overtaking one of these great monsters [a tortoise], as it was quietly pacing along, to see how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a heavy sound, as if struck dead. I frequently got on their backs, and then giving a few raps on the hinder parts of their shells, they would rise up and walk away; --but I found it very difficult to keep my balance.”

Darwin as first Galápagos adventure advocate:  

“The archipelago is a little world within itself.”  

Darwin as gun-wielder:

“Extreme tameness… is common to all the terrestrial species…A gun is here superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the branch of a tree.”

Darwin as an eater of beetles:

“One day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand. Then I saw a third and new king, which I could not bear to lose, so I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! It ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one.”

Darwin as amateur geologist:

“Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact—that mystery of mysteries—the first appearance of new beings on this earth.”

Darwin as initial evolutionary skeptic:

“I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that the different islands to a considerable extend are inhabited by a different set of beings. My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice-Governor, Mr. Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from the different islands, and that he could with certainty tell from which island any one was brought. I did not for some time pay sufficient attention to this statement, and I had already partially mingled together the collections from two of the islands. I never dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we shall soon see that this is the case.”

Darwin as voyager:

“It is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than they are hurried from it.”

Darwin as an average high school student taking English Lit:

“I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.”

Darwin as grumpy man:

“But I am very poorly today and very stupid and I hate everybody and everything. One lives only to make blunders.”

Darwin as liberal arts advocate:

“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”

Darwin as conservationist:

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”

If you’re feeling inspired for all things Charles Darwin, check out some of his published works. Or, better yet, go on a Galápagos vacation this spring to discover for yourself the stunning archipelago and its unique and friendly wildlife that captivated Darwin—the man, the myth, the legend—himself.


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