FitzRoy

The Remarkable Story of Darwin’s Captain and the Invention of the Weather Forecast

John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin

View Inside Price: $66.00


August 11, 2004
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
8 pp. b/w insert + 21 line drawings
ISBN: 9780300103618
Cloth

Out of Print

The name of Robert FitzRoy, captain of the Beagle, is forever linked with that of his most famous passenger, Charles Darwin. This exceptionally interesting biography brings FitzRoy out of Darwin’s shadow for the first time, revealing a man who experienced high adventure, suffered tragic disappointments, and—as the inventor of weather forecasting—saved the lives of countless fellow mariners.
John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin draw a detailed portrait of FitzRoy, recounting the wide range of his accomplishments and exploring the motivations that drove him. As a very young and successful commander in the British navy, FitzRoy’s life was in the mold of a Patrick O’Brian novel. Later disappointments, including an unpopular tenure as governor of New Zealand and a sense of dismay over his own contributions to Darwin’s ideas of evolution, troubled FitzRoy. Even his groundbreaking accomplishments in meteorological science failed to satisfy his high personal expectations, and in 1865 FitzRoy committed suicide at the age of sixty. This biography focuses well-deserved attention on FitzRoy’s status as a scientist and seaman, affirming that his was a life which, despite its sorrowful end, encompassed many more successes than failures.

John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin are visiting fellows at the University of Sussex. John Gribbin has long been interested in the weather and is a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. Mary Gribbin has a special interest in exploration and is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Together they have written many books on science topics.

“This biography brings FityRoy out of Darwin’s shadow for the first time. . . . [It] focuses well-deserved attention on FitzRoy’s status as a scientist and seaman.”—Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

"[The] finely drawn portrait that emerges from FitzRoy is of a very British hero in the mould of Nelson, who sacrificed his health and personal fortune in the service of his country."—Gavin Bell, Daily Telegraph

“A richly textured biography.”—Forecast

"[A] superb and moving biography."—Toby Green, Independent

"FitzRoy would be interesting to any teacher or high school or college student seeking more backgroun material related to either the development and impact of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection or the development of meteorology in the mid-1800s. This is also a good source of anecdotes, human-interest supplements, and research information."—Richard Smith, Journal of Collegeiate Science Teaching

FitzRoy is a fine read and a well-balanced narrative of his life, from his early days as a sailor, through to his time at the helm of the Beagle, and then onwards to his meteorological research.”—Dave Musgrove, Living History

"[T]hose who know of [Robert Fitzroy] at all recall him merely as captain of the Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin on the voyage that led him to develop his theory of natural selection as means of evolution. ; That's a shame that John and Mary Gribbin seek to put right in their biography Fitzroy, a close look at this man who devoted himself to duty, suffered unwanted criticism from others and. . . was dismayed at what he saw as Darwin's error."—Mariner

“A compelling story of a tragic hero, with marvelous insight into factors that impacted his career. . . . The book contains excellent background material related to FitzRoy’s career. . . . FitzRoy would be interesting to any teacher or high school or college student seeking more background material related to either the development and impact of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection or the development of meteorology in the mid-1800s. This is also a good source of anecdotes, human interest supplements, and research information.”—Richard Smith, NSTA (National Science Teachers Association)

“The Gribbins successfully pull their subject out of Darwin’s long shadow and portray him as a notable figure in his own right. Readers interested in Darwin, meteorology or 19th-century seagoing life will all find this a delightful read.”—Publishers Weekly

“A comprehensive biography. . . . This biography gives the material a fresh perspective. The authors’ thorough research and clear writing style are a pleasure to read.”—Edward McCann Kinsman, Science Books & Films

“[John Gribbin’s and Mary Gribbin’s] writings, as individuals and as collaborators, are among the clearest voices in explaining science today.”—Keith C. Heidorn, The Weather Doctor Book Reviews

“[An] absorbing portrait. . . . Lights up a pivotal moment in the history of science. . . . Fascinating.”—David Laskin, Washington Post

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