It’s the beginning of 2006 and there is light at the end of the tunnel as far as completing the writing for Looking for Darwin. Anyone who embarks on a serious piece of writing knows how hard it can be to complete. The concept is typically easier to achieve than getting the words on paper, or the computer screen as it might be. I have finished the parts of the book devoted to Darwin’s voyage in the Beagle and I am now covering that reflective period afterwards when he really honed his ideas of Natural Selection.
There is a perception among the public, indeed biologists too, that Darwin arrived back from his voyage and then dilly-dallied for over twenty years before being spurred into writing about the origin of species by Russell Wallace independently deriving the concept of Natural Selection. The impression that is given is that Darwin was somewhat lazy, living off his father’s wealth and free to potter about somewhat aimlessly on the topics that interested him.
However, Darwin was nothing if not prolific when it came to being a scientist and a writer. In 1839 he published his account of the voyage as the third volume of a three-volume set. Darwin arranged and oversaw the publication, under his joint editorship, of The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle consisting of five parts and published between 1838-1843, in which hundreds of new species were described. In 1842 Darwin published his book on coral reefs, which was followed a couple of years later by one on the geology of volcanic islands visited by the Beagle and, a couple more years after that, by one on the geology of South America.
So Darwin didn’t so much dally as he took his time to be certain about his theory of evolution before foisting it upon the world. Prolific combined with careful research: we writers could mostly only hope to be as good.