Many of the countries visited by Darwin in the course of his circumnavigation of the world have issued stamps in honour of his contributions to science. Birth and death anniversaries, and the centennial years of the Beagle voyage, are among the events philatellically noted. Here are some of the notable issues commemorating this most famous of expeditions.
Britain marked the centenary of Darwin’s death in 1982 with four stamps
The Falkland Islands
Before rounding Cape Horn, HMS Beagle twice visited the Falkland Islands, and stamps to mark the 150th anniversary of the expedition were issued in 1982. In late 1835, the expedition ventured to the Galapagos Archipelago where Darwin was intrigued to observe how land animals and plants had, in isolation, developed into new species from one island to another. The significance of these changes only became clear to the scientist after he had returned home and begun formulating his theory of natural selection or the ‘survival of the fittest’.
Observations made on the Galapagos Islands
led to Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Sailing westwards across the Pacific Ocean the Beagle paid a short visit to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia between late 1835 and early 1836. While not visited by Darwin, the island state of Nauru commemorated the 175th anniversary of the voyage with an issue of two stamps.
The British Indian Ocean Territory
During the Beagle’s visit to the Cocos (Keeling) islands in the Indian Ocean, Darwin’s research laid the foundations for modern theories in the formation of coral reefs, and the 150th anniversary of the voyage was marked by three stamps and a miniature sheet. Leaving the Cocos Islands, the Beagle set off on a 3,000-mile journey across the Indian Ocean. Charles would not have viewed a series of islands known today as the British Indian Ocean Territory, though this did not deter BIOT from issuing four attractive stamps marking the 125th anniversary of his death. The stop over in Mauritius provided the occasion in 1982 for a stamp issue commemorating the 150th anniversary of the expedition. After Capetown, on the last leg of the journey home, there were visits to the British-ruled island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.
Proceeding northwards, Ascension Island marked Darwin’s visit in mid-1836 with several philatelic issues such as the example seen above.
The Cayman Islands first day cover features creatures which would have interested Darwin if he had set foot in the Caymans.
The centenary of Darwin’s death in 1982 provided an opportunity for countries around the world – including more commonwealth states – to honour him. From the Caribbean came a set issued by the Turks and Caicos Islands while Cuba produced a set of five stamps honouring ‘Celebrities of Science’ in 1996. The Cayman Islands produced another series of five stamps labelled ‘The Darwin Initiative’.
Britain’s commemoration with the issue of six stamps
and a miniture sheet on February 12 2009
In 2008, some 110 stamps are available to the keen thematic collector. Along with those issued by nations associated with the Beagle’s voyage, other countries have also issued stamps, including Portugal (above) the Republic of Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and North Korea. No doubt that the anniversary year of 2009 will add to this Darwinian stock.