Vice-Admiral Robert FitRoy 

Robert Fitzroy.jpg

British naval officer, hydrographer, and meteorologist who commanded the voyage of HMS  Beagle, which sailed around the world with Charles Darwin aboard. The voyage provided Darwin with much of the material on which he based his theory of evolution.

At the age of 14 Fitzroy entered the Royal Navy and, after service in the Mediterranean and in South American waters, received command of the 240-ton brig Beagle in 1828. He surveyed the South American coast around Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, returning to England in 1830.


On Dec. 27, 1831, Fitzroy sailed from Portsmouth in the Beagle with Darwin aboard. The expedition visited the Cape Verde Islands, the South American coast, the Strait of Magellan, the Galápagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, the Maldives, and Mauritius before returning to England on Oct. 2, 1836.

A member of Parliament for Durham, England (1841), Fitzroy became governor of New Zealand in 1843 but was recalled in 1845 largely because he contended that Maori land claims were as valid as those of the settlers. He retired from active duty in 1850 and from 1854 devoted himself to meteorology. He devised a storm warning system that was the prototype of the daily weather forecast, invented a barometer, and published The Weather Book (1863).

Fitzroy was a strongly religious man. During the 1831–36 voyage, he continually resisted Darwin’s growing doubts about special creation and the fixity of species. Interactions with Fitzroy, however, helped Darwin clarify his views about evolution and anticipate many objections to his theory prior to its publication.


His death was by suicide (1865), during a period of mental turmoil, partly induced by the growing success of the idea of evolution.