charles darwin in Hobart Town February 1836  

Royal Society of Tasmania, Charles Darwin in Hobart Town, edited by Margaret Davies, Hobart, Royal Society of Tasmania, 2009.

Charles Darwin in Hobart Town

Proceedings of a symposium entitled Charles Darwin in Hobart Town held on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 in the Stanley Burbury Theatre, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, and excursions based on the visit of Charles Darwin to Hobart Town, February 1836.

Maxwell R. Banks, formerly of the Department of Geology, University of Tasmania
David E. Leaman, Leaman Geophysics, Hobart, Tasmania
Peter B. McQuillan, School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania
Michael Roe, (see also: Civilization in Van Diemen’s Land? Darwins Problematic 'Yes'.). School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania

Order the book Charles Darwin in Hobart Town

Links to the writings of Charles Darwin:

The Complete Work of Darwin Online
Online since 2002, The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (or Darwin Online) is the largest and most widely consulted edition of the writings of Darwin ever published.

The Darwin Correspondence Project
On this site you can read and search the full texts of more than 6000 of Darwin’s letters, and find information on 9,000 more.

Books from the University of Tasmania Library Special Collections:

Darwin, C. 1859: On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life  John Murray, London.
This is the first edition of Origin of Species, and so of great bibliographic interest.  The book was purchased by the Royal Society of Tasmania from ‘Walch and Sons, Booksellers of Hobart Town’.  The firm had a most impressive history, contributing as much as the Royal Society itself to the cultural life of the place and time.

origin of species

Darwin, C. 1901: On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection John Murray, London.

Copy owned by Hermann Ritz 1902. Hermann Ritz taught modern languages at the University of Tasmania from 1900 until his death in 1916. In 1904 he published An Essay on the Evolution of Words.Its preface remarked that whereas ‘some of the greatest minds’ had sought to explain evolutionary process in nature, other areas lacked such study.  Philology was notably deficient and it was ‘the purpose of this essay to present some suggestions on this subject’.  A similar paper addressed The Psychology of Language.  Ritz applied his theories to the language of the Tasmanian Aboriginals, hoping to ‘have found the way that will, in time and after arduous and sympathetic efforts, enable us to hear once more “The sound of a voice that is still”.’

Hooker, J. D. 1860: The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of  H.M. Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror III. Flora Tasmaniae  Lovell Reeve, London

Hooker’s work was published just a few weeks after On the Origin of Species and its support of Darwinian ideas did much to further their acceptance.

flora tasmaniae hooker

Darwin, C. 1844: Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands, visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, Smith Elder, London

Charles Darwin Geological observations on the volcanic islands, visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle

Darwin, C. 1874: The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex John Murray, London 

Darwin, C. 1905: The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, John Murray, London.  2 v.

Correspondence with Mr. B. O’Neile Wilson from Tasmania regarding cattle crosses and their fertility (p. 102). This followed on from Wilson’s response to On the Origin of Species where he applauded Darwin’s remarks on the variation of instinct in domestic animals.

charles darwin , the variation of animals and plants under domestication


Darwin C. 1840:  Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle under the command of Captain FitzRoy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836


Part 1 Fossil Mammalia by Richard Owen


Delphinus FitzRoyi
“This porpoise, which was a female, was harpooned from the Beagle in the Bay of St. Joseph, out of several, in a large troop, which were sporting round the ship. I am indebted to Captain FitzRoy for having made an excellent coloured drawing of it, when fresh killed, from which the accompanying lithograph has been taken …This species [which] I have taken the liberty of naming after captain FitzRoy, the Commander of the Beagle.

Part 111 Birds by John Gould


Part V Reptiles by Thomas Bell
Plate 15 fig. 3 Cyclodus Casuarina.
The modern scientific name is Tiliqua casuarinae.
Darwin described it as follows “scales on the centre of the back light greenish brown, edged on their sides with black; scales on the sides of the body above greyer and with less black, below reddish; belly yellow, with numerous narrow, irregular, waving, transverse lines of black, which are formed by the lower margin of some of the scales being black; head above grey, beneath whitish …It is common in the open woods near Hobart Town in Van Diemen’s Land.”

cyclodus casuarina

Darwin, C. 1887: The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin John  Murray, London 3 v.

Darwin C. 1903: More Letters of Charles Darwin John Murray, London 2 v.

darwin letters

Darwin, Erasmus 1796: Zoonomia  Printed for J. Johnson, London.
Erasmus Darwin, physician, naturalist, poet and inventor, was born in Elston near Newark, Nottinghamshire, on 12 December 1731. He was the author of several important works of poetry and of science. The first volume of his most important work, Zoonomia, was published in 1794 with the second volume appearing two years later. In Zoonomia Darwin proposed a theory of evolution, which was to prefigure the theories of his grandson Charles.


The most remarkable element of the book is not Darwin’s system of classification … or its medical content, but is his speculations on evolution. In a chapter entitled “Of Generation” he speculates that all warm-blooded animals may have arisen from “one living filament”, which:
the Great First Cause endowed with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations: and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and delivering down those improvements, by generation to posterity, world without end!.
[Zoonomia I, p.505]

Bibliography of works related to the UTAS Library exhibition:

BACKHOUSE, J., 1838:  Extracts from the Letters of James Backhouse. Third part.  Harvey and Dalton, London.

BISCHOFF, J., 1832:  Sketch of the History of Van Diemen’s Land.  John Richardson, London.

bischoff - sketch of the history of van diemen's land

BONWICK, J., 1870:  The Last of the Tasmanians.  Sampson Low, London.

Bonwick - the last of the Tasmanians

BRITISH MUSEUM, 1909:  Memorials of Charles Darwin.  British Museum, London.  The commentary suggests that Darwin simplified/exaggerated the similarities.

BURNS, T.E. and SKEMP, J.R., 1961:  Van Diemen’s Land Correspondents … 1827-1849.  Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston.

BUTCHER, B.W., 1989:   … Charles Darwin’s Use of Australian Resources, 1837-1882.  Historical Records of Australian Science 8: 1-14.

BUTCHER, B.W., 1994:  Darwin, Darwinism, and the Australian Aborigines, in R. McLeod and P.E. Rehbock (Eds): Darwin’s Laboratory.  University of Hawaii, Honolulu: 371-94.  My thinking is close to Butcher’s; happily my own earlier work was of some (small) help to him.

DARWIN, C., 1839: Journal and Remarks, 1832-1836.  This was volume 3 of the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle.  Henry Colburn, London.  The major Tasmanian references are at 532-6.

DARWIN, C., 1844:  Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. Smith Elder, London.

DARWIN, C., 1859:  On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.  John Murray, London.

DARWIN, C., 1868:  The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.  John Murray, London. 2 vols.  This (the first) edition seen only on the internet at

DARWIN, C., 1872.  On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.  John Murray London.  This (the sixth) edition also seen only at

DARWIN, C., 1882:  The Descent of Man and Selection in relation to Sex.John Murray, London.  This (the second) edition also seen only at

DARWIN, C., 1958:  The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (N. Barlow, Ed).  Collins, London.
DARWIN, C., 1960: Notebooks on Transmutation of Species (G. De Beer, Ed).  Part Four.  British Museum, London. 

DARWIN, C., 1988:  Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary (R.D.W. Keynes, Ed). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.  The major Tasmanian references are at pages 408-10.

DARWINCORRESPONDENCE PROJECT.  This massive enterprise is in process of hard-copy publication, but easier availability is at the internet site
References are to the numeration of items therein.

DAVIS, P., 2004:  Thompson, John Vaughan (1779-1847).  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 34: 453-4.

DE STRZELECKI, P.E., 1845:  Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.  Longmans Brown Green, London.

de strzelecki, physical description of new south wales and van diemens land

HOOKER, J.D., 1860.  The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of H.M. Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror … .  Part III, Flora Tasmaniae.  Lovell Reeve, London.

NEWSPAPERS, 1836:  Hobart Town Courier, 5 February (science and learning), 12 February (survey), 19 February (collections and Backhouse); Colonial Times, 9 February (arrival); True Colonist, 12 February (survey); Bent’s News, 5 March (chronometry); Tasmanian and Review, 1 April (terrestrial position).  Peter Stephenson, Hobart, currently is studying the matters of chronometry and location.

NICHOLAS, F.W. and M., 1989:  Charles Darwin in Australia.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

ROE, M., 1984:  Nine Australian Progressives.  University of Queensland Press, Brisbane.

ROE, M., 1986: Darwin in Hobart, 1836.  Island 28: 16-8.

SHINE, R. and HUTCHINSON, M., 1991: Charles Darwin in Tasmania. Australian Natural History 23: 794-801.

VON MUELLER, F., 1998:  Regardfully Yours … Selected Correspondence (R.W. Home et al., Eds).  Volume One.  Peter Lang, Bern.

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thomas midwood 1854 - 1912 Hobart Tasmania