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Conrad Martens - (Honorary) Scientist of the Day
Conrad Martens, an English artist, died Aug. 21, 1878 (he was born in 1801, we don’t know the exact date). Martens happened to be in Montevideo in 1833 when HMS Beagle came into port. Robert Fitzroy, the captain, had just lost his ship’s artist to illness, and he hired Martens as a replacement. Martens was thus on board the Beagle when it sailed down to Cape Horn, and Martens’ images of the Beagle in the straits of Tierra del Fuego, and of the Fuegian natives who lived there, have become classic accompaniments to any account of Charles Darwin and the voyage of the Beagle. Martens left the ship before it got to the Galapagos Islands, so we have no good images of that famous part of the voyage. Instead, Martens booked passage to Australia, and remained there, as a very popular landscape artist. He and Darwin became friends and continued to correspond long after Darwin came back home.
The first two images above are original watercolors by Martens, of the Beagle in the straits of Tierra del Fuego, with Mt. Sarmiento looming large, and of a native Fuegian, with his hut and family in the background. Below these are the same images as they appeared as woodcuts in Fitzroy’s printed Narrative (1839). Darwin was not allowed to use any of Martens’s drawings for his own volume, Journal and Remarks, which nevertheless became much more popular than Fitzroy’s.
We displayed both Fitzroy’s and Darwin’s narratives in our Grandeur of Life exhibition in 2009, where you may see Martens’ image of the Fuegian native.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City
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SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online