Charles Darwin First Speech to the Geological Society of London
With Lyell's enthusiastic backing, Darwin read his first paper to the Geological Society of London on 4 January 1837, arguing that the South American landmass was slowly rising.
On the same day Darwin presented his mammal and bird specimens to the Zoological Society. The Mammalia were taken on by George R. Waterhouse. Though the birds seemed almost an afterthought, the ornithologist John Gould revealed that what Darwin had taken to be wrens, blackbirds and slightly differing finches from the Galápagos were all finches, but each was a separate species. Others on the Beagle, including FitzRoy, had also collected these birds and had been more careful with their notes, enabling Darwin to determine from which island each species had come.
In mid-December Darwin took lodgings in Cambridge, to organise work on his collections and rewrite his Journal. He wrote his first paper, showing that the South American landmass was slowly rising, and with Lyell’s enthusiastic backing read it to the Geological Society of London on 4 January 1837. On the same day, he presented his mammal and bird specimens to the Zoological Society. The ornithologist John Gould soon announced that the Galapagos birds that Darwin had thought a mixture of blackbirds, “gros-beaks” and finches, were, in fact, twelve separate species of finches. On 17 February Darwin was elected to the Council of the Geographical Society and Lyell's presidential address presented Owen’s findings on Darwin’s fossils, stressing geographical continuity of species as supporting his uniformitarian ideas.
This was a big day for Darwin. Today he gave his first speech before the Royal Geological Society in London. He was very nervous! All the experts in geology were there and this was Darwin's big chance to prove himself to his peers. The topic of his paper was on the gradual raising of South America over eons of time. He concluded that as land masses raise upward, the nearby ocean floor subsides, and that the animals on the raising continent somehow or another adapt to these very slow changes (at this time Darwin had no idea how this happened). This theory represented a shift away from Lyell's theory which stated that animals cannot adapt, but rather die out and are replaced with new species. This was one of the earliest signs that Darwin was beginning to develop his own theories, going beyond his mentors. The speech, by the way, was received very well by nearly all the geologists there.
Darwin delivered his collection of birds and mammals to the Zoological
Society of London on January 4, 1837. 44 It seems likely that he
made this delivery in person, since he was in London that day to give a
paper before the Geological Society (1837a). In addition, he wrote a
letter to the Zoological Society dated January 4 that was read that
afternoon at a meeting of the society's council. According to the
minutes of that meeting, Darwin's letter "announced a present to the
Society of his entire Collection of Mammalia and Birds made during His
Majesty's Surveying Vessel Beagle. It was ordered that the best thanks
of the Society be returned to Mr. Darwin for his liberal and valuable
contribution to its preserved Collections: and that his wishes with
respect to the disposal of the duplicate specimens in this Collection, and to the mounting and describing of the same be strictly complied with."
The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth". It is the oldest national geological society in the world and the largest in Europe with over 9000 Fellows entitled to the postnominal FGS - over 2000 of whom are Chartered Geologists (CGeol).