It was "over two decades after the Beagle’s return" and "His biographers attribute the prolonged gestation period to a combination of scientific and personal reasons, foremost among the latter his apprehension over the repercussions of his theory".
In 1844, Darwin had written to J.D. Hooker saying, in part:
At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable.
Steve also includes this curious item in today's post. It's a “monkeyscope" dating from 1871 that is possibly part of "a display which has begun touring internationally, part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth in 2009".
Cambridge University holds a lot of Darwin stuff ("the world's major collections of Darwin's manuscripts, including his notebooks and experiment books, his own library of books and journals, and also the largest collections of his plant, animal and geological specimens"). Its Darwin Correspondence Project Web site lists cities where the exhibition will stop. Over the next three years it will go to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Toronto and then back to London.
The university will hold a conference to celebrate the event, on 6 to 10 July, 2009. Notable among those speaking are A. S. Byatt and Jared Diamond.
Darwin graduated from Cambridge University in 1831.
No doubt there will be more information and notice of events in the lead-up to the day, which is 12 February.
Byatt's inclusion is curious. Wikipedia says she writes for Prospect magazine on occasion. It is labelled "broadly centre-left" by Wikipedia, which also uses the word "contrarian" to describe it. Her novella Morpho Eugenia (part of Angels and Insects which I reviewed in July last year) describes a romance coloured by a naturalist's obsessions.