In December 1831, HMS Beagle was sent by the British Government on a surveying expedition. Attached to this mission as naturalist was a young man, Charles Darwin. Born in Shrewsbury in 1809, he had disappointed his father by refusing to become a doctor or a clergyman. It was feared he would be a failure in life but he became interested in natural history and the five years he spent in the Beagle helped him understand the relationship between all living things. The ship visited the South American coast and the Galapagos, then sailed on to Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and places which, at the time, were hardly known. On his return Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. Twelve years later another book, The Descent of Man, caused a sensation, for it suggested, for the first time, a new theory of evolution: that man was descended from strange, ape-like creatures – an incredible theory for those days but one which has since been proved correct.
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