From island to archipelago

Darwin approaches the Galápagos Islands, from Darwin: A Graphic Biography, by Eugene Byrne & Simon Gurr

Darwin approaches the Galápagos Islands, from Darwin: A Graphic Biography, by Eugene Byrne & Simon Gurr

On this day 177 years ago, HMS Beagle introduced Charles Darwin to Charles Island. It was here that Darwin was told about the tortoises on different islands of the Galápagos having differently-shaped shells (one of many clues which led Darwin to the theory of evolution by natural selection.)

Galápagos tortoises, from Darwin: A Graphic Biography, by Eugene Byrne & Simon Gurr

25 years later, On The Origin Of Species was completed and in the hands of readers. As one of the most famous and discussed books of  the last one and a half centuries, it has been joined by countless satellite islands – each with its own differently-shaped interpretation of Darwin’s theory.

Now, JF Derry has come up with a book which charts these differing views. The Dissent Of Man is built on more than 50 interviews with thinkers as diverse as Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky and Susan Blackmore: it will show how far Darwin’s ideas have been transformed by others. For more information on this fascinating book, visit Unbounders website, where you can pledge your support. I hope you will, I was sufficiently impressed with the project to contribute a new Darwin portrait, which will appear in the book.

Ink portrait of Charles Darwin by Simon Gurr

Portrait of Charles Darwin by Simon Gurr

That portrait has been made into a print, as has my Punch-style cartoon of Thomas Huxley’s famous battle with Samuel Wilberforce. Both are available as pledge incentives.

“Huxley vs Soapy Sam” by Simon Gurr

There are plenty of other reasons to support this book, but ultimately it’s a brilliant idea for a book, put together by an extremely capable and knowledgeable writer. I for one want the chance to read it!

Post script: Charles Island (now called Floreana Island) was once nearly destroyed by fire, thanks to a careless sailor from the Essex, a whaleship which was later sunk by repeated headbutts from a gigantic sperm whale, in a famous incident which inspired Melville to write Moby-Dick. Moby-Dick is currently being podcast in free daily instalments.

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