Portal:History of science/Picture/20

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Fuegian BeagleVoyage.jpg

This watercolor depicts a native from the Tierra del Fuego, from around the time that Charles Darwin was on his Voyage of the Beagle (1830s). Darwin was taken aback at the crude savagery of the natives, in stark contrast to the civilised behaviour of the three Fuegians they were returning as missionaries (who had been given the names York Minster, Fuegia Basket and Jemmy Button). He described his first meeting with the native Fuegians as being "without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld: I could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilised man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement." In contrast, he said of Jemmy that "It seems yet wonderful to me, when I think over all his many good qualities, that he should have been of the same race, and doubtless partaken of the same character, with the miserable, degraded savages whom we first met here." Four decades later, in The Descent of Man, he would use his impressions from this period as evidence that man had evolved civilization from a more primitive state.