JF Ptak Science Books Post 2680
I was surprised to find this long and early (1845) contribution1 on Darwin and his ambitious work on coral reefs in the generally physical-sciences-heavy Annalen der Physik2. The surprise was ever more so because of the illustration for the article--a German version of the coral islands/reefs map that appears as the frontispiece to Darwin's The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs3... that appeared three years earlier in 1842. (Darwin's Journal of Researches..., today more commonly known as the Voyage of the Beagle, which was the third volume of Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle...... was published in 1839, and his first publication of any kind appeared ten years earlier in 1829; the first German translation of the Narrative appeared in 1845 as Naturwissenschaftliche Reise. As John van Wyhe--the founder and curator of the fantastic resource Darwin Online--points out the German translations were significant because "It was in German...that Darwin influenced the founder of genetics Gregor Mendel, and the pioneering evolutionists August Weismann and Ernst Haeckel"4.)
When I was thumbing through the volume I noticed the folding map tucked away at the back of the book, nestled with a number of other folding engravings--and I very nearly missed it (that being easy to do in this case).
- [For a full description of the map consult Darwin Online, Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, chapter VI, pp 119-126 https://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=side&itemID=F271&pageseq=8]
Having worked with the Annalen for many years (principally the Annalen from 1799 to the early 1930's which numbered in the low hundreds of volumes) it was my overall impression that the appearance of contributions in the natural sciences were not at all common in the early years and had become less so by the time of the Darwin-related article. In any event, there it was--I felt a little groggy for not recognizing the map straight away--I slowly pieced it together from the clues, and then pinned the thing down in the test (the Annalen is not generally very user-friendly in placing images with text, though if I had bothered to look for the usually missing image index it would have made life easier). And then, there it was--right where it should be.
So tonight I'm just sharing a few images of the map from this happy little adventure of not-missing the not-attributed-in-the-table-of-contents Darwin. I guess I should've recognized the map right at the outset, but didn't. Ah, well.
Here's an appreciation of the map from the University of Maryland's Integration and Application Network, "Ten Classic Maps" (https://ian.umces.edu/blog/2013/12/27/ten-classic-scientific-maps/):
"Coral reefs: The map of coral reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean created by Charles Darwin in 1842 as part of his first science book, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs is a masterpiece. Although Darwin’s subsequent books about natural selection eclipsed his insights into coral reefs, this coral reef map is part of the theory that Darwin had about the formation of coral reefs. Darwin correctly hypothesized that coral reefs were formed by the limestone accumulation by corals and that extinct volcanos were buried beneath modern coral atolls. It was over one hundred years before drilling associated with the nuclear testing on Bikini atoll that Darwin’s theory was confirmed. Darwin did a couple of important things with this map: he color coded the reefs that were subsiding (blue) and uplifting (red) and he produced a large foldout to cover the entire tropical Pacific Ocean in a single contiguous map. In this manner, viewing the map instantly reveals the “magnificent and harmonious picture” of the broad patterns that Darwin observed. I am convinced that this is the first important piece of evidence supporting plate tectonics and the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire‘, and that if Darwin had a bit more information available at the time, that he would have actually come up with the theory of plate tectonics."
1. (Darwin, Charles.) "Ueber Verbreitung, Beschaffenheit und Entstehung der Korllen-Inseln" [nach Darwin], in Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 1845, series II volume 64, pp 563-614 (about 15,000 words). ("The distribution, character, and origin of the coral islands.", "after Darwin".)
2. The Annalen would become one of the most important scientific journals in physics beginning in the 1830's.
3. The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs. Being the First Part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, under the Command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the Years 1832 to 1836. The work included three folding maps in total (two of which were hand colored).
4. John van Wyhe, "Darwin in Translation",https://www.amphilsoc.org/library/valentinedarwin/vanwyhe