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Have you ever wondered why Charles Darwin University was named after an English naturalist or why that naturalist, Charles Darwin, was such an important person in history?

This website brings together all sorts of information on both those questions, as well as other information related to the work of this University's namesake.

Browse using the top buttons to find out more.


About Charles Darwin

Beagle Library

During his five-year voyage around the globe from 1831 to 1836, naturalist Charles Darwin lived and worked in the poop cabin of HMS Beagle. The poop cabin housed the Beagle's library of around 400 volumes, many of which were used by Darwin during this formative period in his exploration of the diversity of life.  

Scholars have reconstructed from textual evidence in Darwin's notes and so forth, a list of 144 items from the Beagle library, including scientific papers and around 120 books in four different languages, which Darwin used as references.

Dr John van Wyhe, an eminent Darwin scholar at the National University of Singapore and Charles Darwin University Professorial Fellow, has created the Beagle Library Online by  sourcing and digitising most of these books, papers and documents from the Beagle library so that they can be made readily available online to scholars and the public as a permanent and valuable research tool.

The Beagle Library project was launched on 15 July 2014 and was jointly funded by the National University of Singapore, Singapore Government, Charles Darwin University and the Charles Darwin University Foundation. Visit the Beagle Library.

The Beagle Library complements other resources created by Dr van Wyhe - Darwin Online and Wallace Online

Charles Darwin Scholar

The Charles Darwin Scholar Program is a biennial initiative established in 2013 to enhance Charles Darwin University's links to the work and legacy of its namesake, Charles Darwin. The Program aims to bring eminent Darwin scholars to CDU to stimulate the University's and the Northern Territory's intellectual environment, academic enquiry and debate.

2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the year in which both Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace published papers on natural selection in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 1858 and was a fitting starting point for the CDU Charles Darwin Scholar Program.

The 2016 Charles Darwin Scholars are Emeritus Professors Peter and Rosemary Grant from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University.

Read more about past and present Charles Darwin Scholars.

Darwin 200

The year 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, one of the most influential scientists in human history. It also marked the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s seminal work On the Origin of Species.

These anniversaries were celebrated by events throughout the world, including in Darwin and at Charles Darwin University. CDU, in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government, held a major, two day symposium in September 2009, including international speakers and eminent scholars on the theme Charles Darwin: Shaping our Science, Society and Future.

Further information about the Symposium, including program and presentations, can be found on the Symposium website.

CDU also celebrated the anniversary of its namesake through the commission of a major public artwork, chosen through a nation-wide selection process. The theme for the commission was Charles Darwin’s Contribution to Science and Society.

The successful artists were Paul Johnson and Gail Mason, whose sculpture, Drawing Conclusions, traces Darwin’s travels around the globe in a six metre high aluminium and copper structure resembling both a ship’s rigging and a giant microscope through which meiotic cell division, the basis of genetic variation, can be viewed.

Drawing Conclusions is located in the entry courtyard of the Chancellery at Charles Darwin University’s Casuarina Campus.

Darwin City and surrounds

Origin of the City’s Name

Darwin City, while named after the famous naturalist Charles Darwin, was never visited by him during his five year voyage around the globe on HMS Beagle. The Beagle under the command of John Wickham, who along with Lieutenant John Stokes had sailed with Darwin on the Beagle’s second voyage and were his good friends, did however later come to the harbour now named Darwin Harbour in 1839. Stokes and Darwin had shared the poop cabin on the Beagle where they both worked long hours at the chart table and slept in hammocks in the cramped space.

On 8 September 1839, John Stokes took a small boat and crew from the Beagle , moored off the coast, to explore the waterways surrounding Darwin Harbour, Hope Inlet and Shoal Bay. Since their boat was provisioned for four days, they continued on to the opening of Darwin Harbour. Arriving after dark they camped the night on cliffs, now named Nightcliff, at the entrance to the harbour. On 9 September the group rowed into the harbour and inspected the promontory they named Talc Head.

‘Stokes remarked on the soft white rock he found there, which he called ‘talc slate’. Then he wrote his famous comment: The other rocks near it were of a fine–grained sandstone; a new feature of this part of the continent, which afforded us an appropriate opportunity of convincing an old shipmate and friend, that he still lived in our memory; and we accordingly named this sheet of water Port Darwin’. As ship’s commander, John Wickham would have had the last word on the naming of Port Darwin, but it is clear that his regard for Charles Darwin was sufficient that he concurred with the name Stokes had bestowed. Port Darwin was the last good port to be discovered on the whole of the Australian coast.

A permanent European settlement at Port Darwin was not established until 1869. The City of Darwin was first named Palmerston after the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston; however this name was changed to Darwin in 1911. The change of name was attributed to the ‘unsuitability’ of the name Palmerston, given the almost universal common usage of the name Darwin for the town, related to its location at Port Darwin. There were also towns named Palmerston in Queensland and New Zealand, being additional reasons cited for the need to change the name.

Darwin 200 Anniversary Celebrations

In 2009 Darwin City celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth with the commission of an artwork – the HMS Beagle Ship Bell Chime. Created by Dr Anton Hasell of Australian Bell Pty Ltd, the Bell Chime is a public artwork in the form of a musical instrument in the Civic Gardens. The Bell Chime links Darwin City to Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle from 1831-1836 and includes a replica HMS Beagle ship’s bell as well as a series of cast bronze bells on top of which are bronze statues of a selection of the Australian parrots which fascinated Charles Darwin when in Australia. Find out more about the Beagle Bell Chime

Charles Darwin National Park

On the outskirts of the City of Darwin lies a small national park on the shores of Frances Bay that conserves important wetland, mangrove and woodland ecosystems of Darwin Harbour along with historical World War II infrastructure such as ammunition bunkers. This area known as Charles Darwin National Park is home to 36 species of mangroves and is part of the traditional lands of the Larrakia people. It provides a spectacular view of the City of Darwin across the Harbour.

Other Resources

A select list of Books about Charles Darwin held at Charles Darwin University Library – Casuarina Campus – 2013. (Please consult the Library’s catalogue for more information: )

  • Frame, T.R., Nicholas Drayson, and Robyn Williams. 2008. Charles Darwin: An Australian selection. Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press.
  • Browne, E. J. 2002. Charles Darwin: The power of place ;  volume II of biography. London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Browne, E.J. 1996. Charles Darwin. London: Pimlico.
  • Miller, Jonathan, and Borin Van Loon. 1982. Charles Darwin. London: Writers and Readers.
  • Nicholas, F. W., and J.M. Nicholas. 2008. Charles  Darwin in Australia.
  • Cambridge ; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
  • Nicholas, F.W., and J.M. Nicholas. 2002. Charles  Darwin in Australia. Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press.
  • Stewart, Robin E. 2005. Charles Darwin’s big idea: The revolutionary theory of evolution. Flemington, Vic: Hyland House.
  • Bettany, G. T. Life of Charles Darwin. London: W. Scott.
  • Estbergs, Elizabeth. 1982. Centenary, Charles Darwin: Born 12 February 1809, died 19 April 1882. Winnellie, N.T.?: DCC Learning Resources  Centre?
  • Nicholas, F.W., and J.M. Nicholas. 1989. Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836-1844 Cambridge  [ England ]: University Press.
  • Darwin, Charles, and Sydney Smith. The correspondence of Charles Darwin.
  • Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Darwin, Charles, Christopher Ralling,  and British Broadcasting Corporation. 1978. The voyage of Charles Darwin: His autobiographical writings. London: British Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Armstrong, Patrick. 1985. Charles Darwin in Western Australia: A young scientist’s perception of an environment. Nedlands, W.A.: university if Western Australia Press.
  • Darwin, Charles and Fredrick Burckhardt. 1996. Charles Darwin’s letters: A selection, 1825-1859. Cambridge: University of Cambridge.
  • Bowler, Peter J. 1990. Charles Darwin:  The man and his influence. Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
  • Darwin, Charles, and  R.C. Stauffer. 1987. Charles Darwin’s natural selection: Being the second part of his species book written from 1856 to 1858. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Darwin, Charles  and Paul H. Barrett. 1980. The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Berra, Tim M. 2009. Charles Darwin: The concise story of an extraordinary man. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Vorzimmer, Peter J. 1970. Charles Darwin: The years of controversy: The origin of species and its critics, 1859-1882. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Gale, Barry G. 1982. Evolution without evidence: Charles Darwin and the origin of species. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
  • Laurent, John, and Margaret  Campbell. 1987. The eye of reason, Charles Darwin in Australia. North Wollongong, N.S.W: University of Wollongong Press.
  • Clark, Ronald W. 1985. The survival of Charles Darwin: A biography of man and an idea. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Mayr, Ernst. 1991. One long argument: Charles Darwin and the genesis of modern evolutionary thought. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Miller, Jonathan, and Borin Van Loon. 2010. Introducing Darwin. Crows Nest: Icon Books.
  • Desmond, Adrian J., and James R. Moore. 1991. Darwin. London: Michael Joseph.
  • Darwin, Charles. 2004. The movement and habits of climbing plants. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing.
  • Darwin, Charles,  and Mark Ridley. 1987. The Darwin reader. New York: Norton.
  • Darwin, Charles. 1965. The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Darwin, Charles.  1952. The origin of species by means of natural selection; the descent of man and selection in relation to sex. Vol. 49. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • Darwin, Charles. 1936. The origin of species by means of natural selection: Or, the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life and the descent of man and selection in relation to sex. New York: The Modern library.
  • Bell, Peter R. 1959. Darwin's biological work: Some aspects reconsidered. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Darwin, Charles, and  Alexander Alland. 1985. Human nature, Darwin’s view. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Allan, Mea. 1977. Darwin and his flowers: The key to natural selection. London: Faber and Faber.
  • Darwin, Charles, and Francis  Darwin.  1892. The expression of the emotions in man and animals. London: John Murray.
  • Darwin: Before and after: The history of evolutionary thought 1966. . Exeter: Paternoster Press.
  • Darwin, Charles , Robert Jastrow, and Kenneth Korey. 1984. The essential Darwin. Boston: Little, Brown.
  • Hull, David L.  1983. Darwin and his critics: The reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by the scientific community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Moorehead, Alan. 1971. Darwin and the beagle. Ringwood, Vic: Penguin Books.
  • Darwin, Charles, and John W. Judd. 1890. On the structure and distribution of coral reefs, also, geological observations on the volcanic islands and parts of South America visited during the voyage of H.M.S. beagle. Vol. 8. London: Ward, Lock & Co.
  • Barrett, Paul H. 1987. A concordance to Darwin’s the descent of man and selection in relation to sex. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Eldredge, Niles. 1995. Reinventing Darwin: The great evolutionary debate. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Love, Rosaleen , Deakin University. School of Humanities. Open Campus Program, and Deakin University. Nature and Human Nature Course Team. 1982. Darwin and social Darwinism. Waurn Ponds, Vic: Open Campus Program, School of Humanities, Deakin University.
  • Godfrey, Laurie R. 1985. What Darwin began: Modern Darwinian and non-
    Darwinian  perspectives on evolution. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Darwin,  Charles, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Gavin De Beer Sir. 1983. Autobiographies. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Kohn, David, and Malcolm J. Kottler.        1985. The Darwinian heritage. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, in association with Nova Pacifica.
  • Marshall, Jock. 1970. Darwin and Huxley in Australia. Sydney: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Johnson, Phillip E. 1993. Darwin on trial. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter Varsity Press.
  • Hodge, M. J. S. 2009. Darwin studies: A theorist and his theories in their contexts. Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • Dennett, Daniel Clement. 1995. Darwin's dangerous idea: Evolution and the meanings of life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Ruse, Michael. 1986. Taking Darwin seriously: A naturalistic approach to philosophy. New York, NY: Blackwell.
  • Richards, Robert John. 1987. Darwin and the emergence of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gould, Stephen Jay. 1977. Ever since Darwin: Reflections in natural history. New York: Norton.
  • Oldroyd, D. R. 1980. Darwinian impacts: An introduction to the Darwinian revolution. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
  • Strahan, Ronald, and  Northern Territory.  Museum and Art Galleries  Board. 1983. How evolution came to a halt. Vol. 1st, 1983. Darwin: Museums and Art Galleries Board of the Northern Territory.
  • Richards, Robert John. 1992. The meaning of evolution: The morphological construction and ideological reconstruction of Darwin’s theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ruse, Michael. 1979. The Darwinian revolution: Science red in tooth and claw. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Goldsmith, John. 1978. Voyage in the beagle. London: Chatto & Windus.
  • Huxley, Robert, and Natural History Museum (London, England). 2007. The great naturalists. London: Thames & Hudson in association with the Natural History Museum.
  • Ghiselin, Michael T. 1984. The triumph of the Darwinian method: With a new preface. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Lovtrup, Soren. 1987. Darwinism: The refutation of a myth. London: Groom Helm.
  • Ruse, Michael. 1989. The Darwinian paradigm: Essays on its history, philosophy, and religious implications. New York: Routledge.