Walks in the Cambridgeshire Countryside
Today, in 1835, Charles Darwin wrote a letter to his friend J.S. Henslow.
“In a few days time, the Beagle will sail for the Galapagos Islands. I look forward with joy and interest to this, both as being somewhat nearer to England and for the sake of having a good look at an active volcano.”
Throughout his life, Darwin exchanged letters with John Stevens Henslow, professor of Botany and Mineralogy at Cambridge University. Their correspondence was a powerful influence on Darwin, helping to shape his thinking about the natural world.
And, it was thanks to Henslow that Darwin received the invitation to join captain Robert FitzRoy on the HMS Beagle. Henslow had written a letter recommending Darwin for the journey because of his likable personality.
When they were young, Henslow and Darwin had walked the Cambridgeshire countryside together. Their walks inspired Darwin to study the natural world and to travel.
Once Darwin was part of team Beagle, Henslow presented Darwin with a copy of Humboldt's Narrative, an account of Humboldt's travels in South America. In it, Henslow had inscribed these words
"J. S. Henslow to his friend C. Darwin on his departure from England upon a voyage around the World. 21st Sept. 1831."
Darwin treasured this gift above all others, and at his death, the book was safely brought to Cambridge University Library, where it remains to this day.