Reading and writing the scientific voyage: FitzRoy, Darwin and John Clunies Ross

British Journal for the History of Science 51 (3):369-394 (2018)
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Abstract

An unpublished satirical work, writtenc.1848–1854, provides fresh insight into the most famous scientific voyage of the nineteenth century. John Clunies Ross, settler of Cocos-Keeling – which HMSBeaglevisited in April 1836 – felt that Robert FitzRoy and Charles Darwin had ‘depreciated’ the atoll on which he and his family had settled a decade earlier. Producing a mock ‘supplement’ to a new edition of FitzRoy'sNarrative, Ross criticized their science and their casual appropriation of local knowledge. Ross's virtually unknown work is intriguing not only for its glimpse of theBeaglevoyage, but also as a self-portrait of an imperial scientific reader. An experienced merchant seaman and trader–entrepreneur with decades of experience in the region, Ross had a very different perspective from that of FitzRoy or Darwin. Yet he shared many of their assumptions about the importance of natural knowledge, embracing it as part of his own imperial projects. Showing the global reach of print culture, he used editing and revision as satirical weapons, insisting on his right to participate as both reader and author in scientific debate.

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Katharine Anderson
Carnegie Mellon University

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