Science Buzz Cafe # 463 The Galapagos Expedition – Matthew James, PhD
Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin
In 1905, eight sailor-scientists from the California Academy of Sciences set out on an 89-foot schooner from San Francisco for a scientific collecting expedition in the Galapagos Islands. By the time they finished in late 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. They brought back over 78,000 specimens, but caused no species to become extinct. These museum specimens helped validate the ideas of Charles Darwin and laid the groundwork for foundational evolution texts, such as David Lack’s landmark 1947 book Darwin’s Finches.
Despite the significance of this expedition, almost nothing was written on this voyage, lost amongst broader discussions of Darwin’s trip on HMS Beagle. In Collecting Evolution, author Matthew James finally tells the story of the 1905-06 Galapagos expedition and its implications. James follows these eight young men aboard the schooner Academy to the Galapagos and back, and reveals the stories that occurred before, during, and after their groundbreaking success.
Matthew James is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, Professor of Geology at Sonoma State University (since 1985), and a Governing Member of the Charles Darwin Foundation. He has a Ph.D. in Paleontology from the University of California at Berkeley. Professor James is originally from Hawaii, having attended school on Oahu from kindergarten through college. He has been writing about the Galapagos in historical, scientific, and conservation capacities for over thirty-five years.