Charles Darwin and the Beagle

Darwin was 22 when he began a round-the-world journey on a Royal Navy ship, HMS Beagle, but in 1831 a young Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin man had to have his father’s permission before setting out on a long voyage. Darwin’s father told his son he was wasting his time, but at last he agreed, and on 27 December young Charles set sail.

The ship made a scientific expedition to a number of distant places, and Darwin collected fossils and studied animals and plants everywhere he landed.

The voyage lasted five years, and when he returned to London, Darwin studied his notes and the specimens he collected, and formulated a number of theories. The most famous of these is his theory of evolution, which states that all living species have developed over hundreds of millions of years from one original form of life.

Millions of people have misunderstood Darwin’s theory. He did not claim that man is descended from the apes. What he did say is that man and the apes are descended from the same form of life. Millions of people have also been against the theory of evolution because, they say, it is in conflict with religion.

Darwin himself was a very reserved man who never discussed the matter in public, but two hundred years after his birth, his ideas are very widely respected.


Find expressions in the text which mean the same as these Norwegian words and phrases. Use your dictionary, and read through the text again when you have translated the expressions: you will find it a lot easier to understand.

  1. utviklingslære
  2. naturvitenskapelig
  3. misforstått
  4. offentlig
  5. nedstammer fra
  6. den mest kjente
  7. sjøreise
  8. dyre- og plantearter


Activities for the links below

1) Go to the BBC site, and read the biography of Charles Darwin. Then choose the correct word or phrase to complete these sentences:

a) Darwin came from a __________ family.

  • humble
  • rich
  • scientific

b) At first he wanted to become a __________.

  • doctor
  • teacher
  • priest

c) He boarded the Beagle in order to __________.

  • cruise
  • fight
  • study

d) His visit to the Galápagos Islands was __________.

  • very instructive
  • relaxing
  • unimportant

e) Darwin __________ the ideas of Malthus.

  • agreed with
  • disagreed with
  • did not understand

f) Alfred R Wallace had ideas which were __________ Darwin’s own.

  • different from
  • the same as
  • based on 

g) The Church __________ what Darwin wrote.

  • was violently against
  • accepted
  • liked

h) Nowadays Darwin’s theories are __________.

  • very unpopular
  • out of date
  • generally accepted


2) Turn to the second website, where you will find a Gallup poll taken recently on attitudes to Darwinism in the USA. It shows that disagreement between fundamentalists and evolutionists is still very much alive. As you read the findings, move around them and answer these questions:

a) Of the people interviewed, how many said they were indifferent to the theory of evolution?

b) Of people who go to church more often than others, how many believe in evolution?

c) When asked to identify which theory Darwin is responsible for, how many mentioned the wrong one?

d) What is the view of evolution held by almost half of people under 35?

e) What is the attitude of most people with little education?

f) Look at the section towards the end of the survey – the one headed “Implications” – and sum up the reaction which many scientists may have when they read the findings.

g) What, according to the section headed “Implications”, are the two factors which decide how much people know about Darwin’s theories and what they think about them?