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Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin

  • The first full-length telling of one of the most important scientific voyages to the Galapagos Islands in history.
  • James uses his access to the California Academy of Sciences to provide previously unpublished papers and photographs from the voyage.
  • Combines the personal drama of the voyage with the scientific findings that came from it, creating a memorable narrative of science history

By: Matthew J James(Author)

284 pages, 47 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Hardback | May 2017 | #231626 | ISBN-13: 9780199354597
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £26.49 $34/€30 approx

About this book

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 species 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, 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 why they were able to have 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 A current Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, James uses his access to unpublished writings and photographs to provide unprecedented insight into the expedition.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 is a watershed moment in scientific history, crossed with a maritime adventure: there are suicides, controversies over credit and fame, and the tragic killing of now-extinct species. Collecting Evolution 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 to light, bringing its scientists and their journey to life.

"James writes well and delivers a stimulating account of evolutionary thought through the years"
Publishers Weekly

"An excellent read on the last collection voyage to Galapagos"
– Jenny Vidler, Galapagos Matters



Prologue - A Sense of Urgency
Chapter 1 - Skinning Tortoises by Moonlight
Chapter 2 - Halfway to the Stars
Chapter 3 - Walking in Darwin's Footsteps, or, Setting Sail for Darwin's Islands
Chapter 4 - Darwin's Outdoor Laboratory of Evolution, or, The Darwinian Background
Chapter 5 - Walking in Darwin's Footsteps (re-named); previous: Confluence: Where Geography and Ideas Meet
Chapter 6 - Bird Watchers and Bird Collectors, or, Darwin's Outdoor Laboratory of Evolution
Chapter 7 - Death on a Distant Shore: Darwin's Natural Selection in the Galápagos
Chapter 8 - Darwin's Famous Finches
Chapter 9 - That Sinking Feeling
Chapter 10 - Darwin's Islands Meet the Plant Wizard of Santa Rosa
Chapter 10 - Shells of Contention
Chapter 11 - Post-Script: Success After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire
Appendix - Post-Expedition Publications

Notes and References

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Matthew James is a Fellow of the the California Academy of Sciences, and Professor of 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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