Charles Darwin Published "The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs"
The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt.
Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836, was published in 1842 as Charles Darwin's first monograph, and set out his theory of the formation of coral reefs and atolls. He conceived of the idea during the voyage of the Beagle while still in South America, before he had seen a coral island, and wrote it out as HMS Beagle crossed the Pacific Ocean, completing his draft by November 1835. At the time there was great scientific interest in the way that coral reefs formed, and Captain Robert FitzRoy's orders from the Admiralty included the investigation of an atoll as an important scientific aim of the voyage. FitzRoy chose to survey the Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. The results supported Darwin's theory that the various types of coral reefs and atolls could be explained by uplift and subsidence of vast areas of the Earth's crust under the oceans.
The book was the first volume of three Darwin wrote about the geology he had investigated during the voyage, and was widely recognised as a major scientific work that presented his deductions from all the available observations on this large subject. In 1853, Darwin was awarded the Royal Society's Royal Medal for the monograph and for his work on barnacles. The theory has been supported by modern investigations, and is no longer open to dispute.
Coral reefs (1842) was Darwin’s first monograph. It addressed an immensely ambitious subject. It is perhaps second only to the Origin for its masterful deduction from observation, leading to the construction of a theory that if proved would exceed all previous attempts and virtually solve its subject. The power of Darwin’s monograph was well recognised by his contemporaries as a major scientific work. It was for this book and his monographs on barnacles that Darwin was awarded the Copley Medal by The Royal Society in 1864.
This introduction is not intended to repeat the bibliographical history of Coral reefs which, as with all Darwin’s books, was dealt with extensively by R. B. Freeman. Coral reefs was first published in May 1842. Darwin brought out a revised second edition in 1872 and a third edition, with a substantial appendix by T. G. Bonney, appeared in 1889. The first edition was enthusiastically reviewed by Jackson 1842.