Darwin's Beagle Specimen Notebooks

Contributed by Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

The four dry specimen catalogues that Charles Darwin used aboard HMS Beagle.

Charles Darwin recorded the rocks and fossils he collected on the Beagle Voyage in these notebooks.In these rather plain jotters Charles Darwin (1809-1882) recorded all the dry specimens that he collected during the Beagle Voyage (1831-1836), including the rocks that his son donated to the Sedgwick Museum.

A typical entry contains a number in a pre-ruled margin that corresponds to the number that Darwin stuck to each specimen, the place where the specimen was collected, a description of the specimen and cross references to other similar specimens. The catalogues also reveal the techniques that he used to analyse the specimens in the field and back aboard ship to identify them.

To Darwin they were an invaluable resource of inspiration and evidence for his geological theories. To us they provide a unique insight into Darwin's scientific knowledge and practices at the start of his career. They are a testament to how Darwin painstakingly collected, recorded, analysed and interpreted his specimens to become an eminent scientist.

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2nd Voyage of HMS Beagle (1831-1836)


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