Collecting Evolution: The Galápagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin

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Oxford University Press, 2017 - Nature - 284 pages
In 1905, eight men from the California Academy of Sciences set sail from San Francisco for a scientific collection expedition in the Galapagos Islands, and by the time they were finished in 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. These scientists collected over 78,000 specimens during their time on the islands, validating the work of Charles Darwin and laying the groundwork for foundational evolution texts like Darwin's Finches. Despite its significance, almost nothing has been written on this voyage, lost amongst discussion of Darwin's trip on the Beagle and the writing of David Lack.

In Collecting Evolution, author Matthew James finally tells the story of the 1905 Galapagos expedition. James follows these eight young men aboard the Academy to the Galapagos and back, and reveals the reasons behind the groundbreaking success they had. A current Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, James uses his access to unpublished writings and photographs to provide unprecedented insight into the expedition. We learn the voyagers' personal stories, and how, for all the scientific progress that was made, just as much intense personal drama unfolded on the trip. This book shares a watershed moment in scientific history, crossed with a maritime adventure. There are four tangential suicides and controversies over credit and fame. Collecting Evolution also explores the personal lives and scientific context that preceded this voyage, including what brought Darwin to the Galapagos on the Beagle voyage seventy years earlier. James discusses how these men thought of themselves as "collectors" before they thought of themselves as scientists, and the implications this had on their approach and their results.

In the end, the voyage of the Academy proved to be crucial in the development of evolutionary science as we know it. It is the longest expedition in Galapagos history, and played a critical role in cementing Darwin's legacy. Collecting Evolution brings this extraordinary story of eight scientists and their journey to life.


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Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition That Vindicated Darwin

User Review  - Publishers Weekly

James, chair of the geology department at Sonoma State University, convincingly shows that though Darwin’s 1835 Galapagos visit remains a historical milestone, the specimens he collected were ... Read full review


1 Halfway to the Stars
2 Walking in Darwins Footsteps
3 Setting Sail from San Francisco
4 Before It Is Too Late
5 Collecting Evolution
6 Galápagos at Last
 Where Geography and Ideas Meet
11 Ships Log 1906
12 That Sinking Feeling
13 Darwins Islands Meet the Plant Wizard of Santa Rosa
 Ships Log
15 Vindicating Darwin
 Recent Use of California Academy of Sciences Specimens
Chronology of the 19051906 Galápagos Expedition

8 On Death and Life in Galápagos
 Ships Log 1905
10 Rising from the Ashes

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About the author (2017)

Matthew James is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, and Professor of Geology and Paleontology at Sonoma State University. He has been writing about the Galapagos in historical, scientific, and research capacities for over thirty years.

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