Robert FitzRoy: The tragic story of the troubled genius who made Charles Darwin

Vice Admiral Robert FitzRoy is one of the forgotten heroes of the mid eighteenth century. An aristocrat of the old school, he became an outstanding naval officer, rapidly rising through the ranks.

He became most famous, as the taciturn and melancholy captain of the Beagle – taking the young and inexperienced Charles Darwin, as a mere companion, on the journey that would inspire his evolutionary theory of Natural Selection that changed the course of science, and history.

But as a fundamentalist Christian, he struggled with the societal shockwaves the theory would send through Britain, and his role in motivating and encouraging Darwin. But quite aside from his incredible relationship with Darwin, FitzRoy went on to become governor of the young nation of New Zealand, championing indigenous Maori rights against the expansion of settlers,

Then, most notably, being the developer of a series of barometers and warning stations across the United Kingdom, gathering data and establishing the first meteorological office in the world and publishing the first ever weather forecast- his system of charts and warning reports being the foundation of weather forecasts in use all around the world to this day, saving the lives of countless sailors and fishermen.

Battling his entire life with what we would now diagnose as Bipolar disorder, his incredible feats of navigation and charting of some of the most treacherous seas in the world, as well as gathering weather data for stations across Britain, contrasted with his regular bouts of deep and debilitating depression, that would eventually see him take his own life, due to an illness that had no treatment any aroused very little sympathy.

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