on 11 June 2007
And that about covers it for most people. Well Darwin was extremely lucky that he was second choice as a companion for the Captain of the Beagle who was setting off to survey the seas around Cape Horn. Darwin gave fair credit to Fitzroy but probably didn't appreciate he was priviledged to sail with one of our great seamen. This book is not the first to extoll the virtues of Capt. FitzRoy but for the general reader may well be the best. The authors' credentials are such that they could well have submerged the man under the minutae of his 'trade' but not at all.
The book is written in an engaging style, almost avuncular in parts (with apologies to Mary Gribbin as I do not know the equivalent feminine word) but in no way patronising. In fact you almost wonder if you are going to be asked for your opinion at times.
What I am trying to imply is that the book is so well written you are not aware until afterwards just how much you have learnt from it. When you have read this book for you FitzRoy will no longer be under Darwin's shadow. You will be able to join the ranks of those who see him as a great man in his own rights.
What the ludicrous ban on mercury will imply for the preservation of his barometers only underlines the fact that the daftness of politicians has not lessened one wit from the days of the good captain.
I commend the opinions of the other reviewers.
on 16 May 2006
Robert FitzRoy's contribution to science, exploration and humanity was never fully acknowledged in his lifetime. Nor were the half million hand-written words he transcribed about his survey work and voyages. Being the Captain of HMS Beagle which carried amongst its scientific crew the young, Charles Darwin, Fitzroy's work, when published was dwarfed by the publication of Darwin's 'Origin of the Species'. It was as recently as 2002 that Fitroy was acknowledged for the invention and instigation of a weatherforcasting system - a system which at the time of its first presentation to British Parliament was received with laugher in the House.
I purchased 'Fitzroy' by John and Mary Gribbin because I love tall ship adventures and I wanted to retrace a voyage I took to the nether regions on South America. I found 'FitzRoy' to be far more than a sea story. It is not only a well researched biography of a truly remarkable man, but a page-turning narrative of sailing and survey work in uncharted, inhospitable territories. 'FitzRoy' is an intriguing adventure and travelogue rolled into one.
This review is based on the hardback version.
on 22 January 2009
A nicely balanced, well researched account of the life of a brave and generous worker for the public good. The three phases of Fitzroy's professional life are all covered here: the accomplished sea captain, painstakingly charting the South American coast; the able Parliamentarian, and none-too-successful New Zealand Governor who tried to be fair to the Maoris; and his final contribution as founder of the Met Office, and instigator of a successful storm warning system. There is tragedy in his story. Fitzroy suffered from depression, finally taking his own life when all he had worked for and put his faith in seemed to be unravelling. He could see the painful ironythat Darwin's Bible-crunching publication "The Origin of Species" couldn't have been developed without the devout Fitzroy's own invitation to join him on the Beagle years before. Also driving him to his end was seeing his beloved weather forecasting system undermined by Government factions eager to save money rather than lives at sea. This noble public servant deserves to be remembered as more than merely "Darwin's Captain", and this book does much to restore his proper reputation.
on 27 June 2003
I bought this book because I knew Robert Fitzroy was the Captain of the Beagle when Charles Darwin sailed round the world. I didn't know how much else he did -- governor of New Zealnd, inventor of weather forecasting, and so much else. He comes across as a real person, a man of integrity but tortured by self-doubts, who achieved so much. The book gives a real feel for Fitzroy as a person and his life and ultimately tragic times in Victorian England. It's as good as reading Patrick O'Brien, but its all true! Easily John Griobbin's best book, perhaps thanks to the influence of his co-author.
on 28 August 2003
Most people know the story of Darwin's travels, and the discoveries that led to his great theory. But few people know about the man who captained the ship - and so much more. This is in a way a science book - but only in a way. It is also an adventure story which really brought to life for me a time and a way of thinking. As skilfully written as an adventure story, and yet deadly informative too about the era and about a fascinating man. I Loved It!
on 18 April 2012
This seems to be one of the most authoritative accounts of "Darwin's captain", Robert Fitzroy, who makes a fascinating study in dedication to duty, man-management, navigational skill, and scientific intelligence. Perhaps a more interesting personality than Darwin himself, albeit a tortured one. The authors here have a rather turgid prose style but their subject rises above it.