The Beagle record
Everett Rogers's magnum opus was diffusion of innovations; but he has made another significant contribution to science in the form of a book on the history of communication studies as a discipline (Rogers, E. M. (1994). A history of communication study: A biographical approach. New York: Free Press.). It is a book full of great historical details and surprising revelations - such as the realization that the discipline was originally started with oil money, and sustained with corporate injections ( = early research on media advertising campaigns) and CIA funds ( = intercultural communication). Dirty money trails aside, Rogers tracks three fundamental ideas that influence the development of communication theories; the discipline stands on the shoulders of three giants, namely Darwin, Marx, and Freud.
Throughout my education, I have been accustomed to seeing Charles Darwin as one of the giants of science (speaking of that quote, Darwin is buried next to Sir Isaac Newton himself in the Westminster abbey). Darwin's name brings associations of a somber bearded man, the book about the descent of man, Galapagos finches, evolution, and survival of the fittest. It is a dry image; associated only vaguely with the more romantic and less bookish notion of a sea voyage aboard a ship by the name of the Beagle.
The Darwin of the Beagle era is none of that, as the reading of his diaries demonstrates (http://lensyoga.com/node/charles-darwins-beagle-diaries). We see a young man, full of wonder and anticipation, tirelessly collecting specimen at sea and on land, and writing copious research notes about the process - with none of the certainty and finality that we are accustomed to associate with his name.
The Beagle Record is even more revealing. Here the selections from Darwin's diaries are complemented by excerpts from Captain Fitz Roy's narratives; but even more importantly, with Darwin's letters to his family and to John Henslow, his mentor at Cambridge.
The Darwin of the letters is anything but dry - adventurous, tumultuous, sometimes full of hope and great anticipation, and at other times gravely depressed and doubtful - but above all witty, energetic, and occasionally almost mischievously childish and sarcastic. This is not the Father of Science Darwin - it is the Darwin who tirelessly rides for hundreds of miles with gauchos across South America, who remarks about a travel companion that she daily increases in every direction except height, who climbs vertiginous mountains of Tahiti and sleeps in huts made out of banana leaves; and who repeatedly tosses the same iguana into a pool of water "as far as [he] could throw it" to see why the animal is so averse to being in water - the lizard invariably returns straight to him because it has no fear of man (and no natural enemies on land), but it instinctively fears its numerous aquatic enemies.
We see a man - or rather two men, Darwin and FitzRoy - driven by a sense of duty; one tirelessly collecting animals, fossils, and geological samples for the advance of natural history; the other making a decision to invest his own funds to purchase a schooner to expedite the survey of the coast of South America which is the primary goal of the Beagle's voyage.
Reading the Record has made me see the human dimension of Darwin's life; but it also made me respect him and his companion for this unfaltering drive of Duty; a drive so strong that Robert Fitz Roy 30 years after the voyage took his perceived failure to perform the Duty so seriously that he commited suicide (and Darwin himself greatly undermined his health as he worked night and day upon his return to produce the publishable report of the voyage). This feeling of Duty (and the heavy toll it takes on its bearer) is perhaps best expressed in Fitz Roy's letter to Captain Beaufort (August 15, 1832):
Oh that time and Resources could be multiplied in proportion to the demand - I would then give you and myself satisfaction. Every fresh step only shews me a multitude of others which ought to be taken; and the more I scribble and think, the more I find to scribble and think about.
The Beagle Record: Selections from the original pictorial records and written accounts of the voyage of H. M. S. Beagle. Edited by Richard Darwin Keynes; Cambridge University Press, 1979