Like many modern students, Charles Darwin exceeded only in subjects that intrigued him.
Although his father was a physician, Darwin was uninterested in medicine and he was unable to stand the sight of surgery. He did eventually obtain a degree in theology from Cambridge University, although theology too was of minor interest to him. What Darwin really liked to do was to tramp over hills, observing plants and animals, collecting new specimens, scrutinizing their structures, and categorizing his findings. In 1831, when Darwin was only 22 years old, the British government sent Her Majesty^Òs Ship Beagle on a 5 year expedition that would take them first along the coastline of South America and then onward around the world. As was common on such expeditions, the Beagle would carry along a naturalist to observe and collect geological and biological specimens encountered along the route. Thanks to the recommendation of one of Darwin^Òs previous college professors, he was offered the position of naturalist aboard the Beagle.
The Beagle sailed to South America, making many stops along the coast. Here Darwin observed the plants and animals of the tropics and was stunned by the diversity of species compared with Europe.
Perhaps the most significant stopover of the voyage was the month spent in the Galapagos Islands off of the northwestern coast of South America. It was here that Darwin found huge populations of tortoises; and he found that different islands were home to distinctively different types of tortoises. He then found that on islands without tortoises, pricky pear cactus plants grew with their juicy pads and fruits spread out over the ground. And on islands that had hourdes of tortoises, the prickly pears grew substantially thick, tall trunks, bearing the fleshy pads and fruits high above the reach of the tough mouthed tortoises. He then wondered if the differences...