Young Scientists Journal: Guest blog

Jun 22

Written by:
22 June 2015 13:30  RssIcon

The Greatest Voyage - Claire Nicholson

The story of evolution begins over 100 years ago in 1809. A man called Charles Darwin was born. He was born as one of six children in a conservative Christian family. His experiences led him to be quite withdrawn and not particularly outgoing. He began his university education as most people did, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by securing a place studying medicine. However, he found the then brutal surgical techniques too much to handle, so he abandoned his plans to be a doctor and began collecting beetles whilst he studied Divinity at Cambridge. 

Darwin decided the one thing he’d love to do would be to follow his real passion- biology. His tutor at Cambridge recommended him as a “gentlemen naturalist” for a worldwide voyage on HMS Beagle – as anyone would, he jumped at the chance. 

In 1831 Darwin embarked on one of the greatest voyages of all time. Over five years, he visited five continents investigating the local geology and collecting specimens. However he suffered from seasickness which proved to be quite a challenge on a long term voyage. 

In 1835, he left South America for the main attraction – the Galapagos islands. 600 miles off the cost of Ecuador he studied their unique, incredible ecosystem. Whilst he didn’t have any particular 'eureka' moment, he began to draft each of his observations. This was where he came up with the idea of “Natural Selection” – although, he struggled with the idea because it had contradicted everything he was taught growing up. 

After a long bout of illness he’d written thousands of words on evolution yet, he had published nothing. In 1858 he realised he had to do something – and fast. A man called Alfred Russel Wallace, one of Darwin’s admirers had independently come up with the theory of evolution and was potentially about to publish his own work. If Darwin did nothing, there was a strong possibility he would get no credit for a lifetime's worth of work. Eventually they decided to present their work at the same meeting. Towards the latter end of 1858 he published the infamous “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection”, he said that writing it was like “living in hell”; he was riddled by doubt and petrified of the reaction he'd get from the scientific community. 

If we fast forward over a hundred years his work has enabled us to understand and discover millions of species, to unlock incredible secrets of our past and a key to the future - all with the help of Charles Darwin. We now stand at a precipice where changing climates and population pressure threaten some of the species Charles Darwin spend his life investigating. 

With the mounting threat of global warming, the question we must ask ourselves is how we will carry forth his legacy into the present day?

About the Author: I'm Claire, next year's Chief Editor for The Young Scientists Journal, I'm really interested in all kinds of science, in particular biology - genetics and evolution. I'm coming to the end of year 12 and if all goes to plan, I'd love to become a science communicator, whether it's writing books or running events! Last year I also wrote a charity ebook, making science fun for all ages

About The Young Scientists Journal ( is a science journal written and edited by people all over the world, much like yourselves between 12 and 20. We have a team of around 40 editors from across the globe which help to edit the articles for both the print and online version. We're always looking for more people to join the team, whether it be as an editor, designer, animator or working on social media, we'd love to hear from you! If you've been on an expedition, have done a science project, or you're just a budding science writer then please submit your work for publication on our website! For more information please email and we'll be happy to help! 

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