Monday, October 17, 2005
Darwin's Intellectual Voyage -- A New Piece of the Puzzle
At Cambridge, Darwin was a student of botanist John Henslow -- in fact, for three years, Henslow's lectures were the only one's the young Darwin attended.
"Henslow would ask people to send him different examples from all parts of the country and use them to illustrate variability to his students," said Dr. Whitehorn. "Henslow was not just identifying plants; he was organising his herbarium to emphasise variation within species.
"Remarkably, he seems to be the only British botanist at the time doing this. Other herbariums would show just one example of each plant.
"For 160 years it was believed Darwin's interest in variation arose aboard the Beagle when he arrived at the Galapagos Islands.
"What we believe happened is Henslow sent Darwin off on the Beagle saying 'go and see if this happens across the world'. Darwin sent almost all of the samples he collected while on the Beagle to Henslow.
" We believe Henslow launched Darwin's mind during those undergraduate days on an intellectual voyage that led from a belief in species stability to the mutability expressed in Origin of Species."