The Idea Takes Shape

Part of the Darwin exhibition.

Within months of stepping off the deck of the Beagle, Darwin settled in London, the nerve center of Britain. Now on fire with the ambition to join the "real naturalists," Darwin plunged into the work of writing up his Beagle research. Meanwhile, a huge idea was taking shape in his mind. Had those first shipboard insights been right? Could new species arise from old? If they could, how did it happen?

Darwin's London years were intensely, feverishly creative. Here he would make a name for himself in science. Here he would marry and have his first two children. And here he would begin another voyage--this one inside his mind. It was in London that Darwin brilliantly put together the pieces of his theory of evolution by natural selection. And then, within just five years, he abandoned the smoky city for his beloved English countryside--still keeping his revolutionary thinking largely to himself.