Was Darwin’s first job a Suicide Hotline?

On a cold December day in 1831, The Captain of the HMS Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, boarded his ship on a two-year journey to chart South America. One of his shipmates, however, was not a member of his crew but a civilian.

Voyages of this length were so lonely and stressful on commanders that the Royal Navy often appointed independent ‘Gentlemen’ to provide a travel companion for the Captain – someone who was not subordinate and could therefore hold a conversation as an equal. In fact, Fitzroy gained his commission after the previous Captain shot himself.

By FitzRoy’s side to provide sanity and a sounding board during the journey was a young 22-year-old who also brought with him sharp skills in geology, charting, and surveying that would be useful to the Captain. The young man used many of his own observations during this journey around South America and across the Pacific to develop ideas published later as ‘The origin of the Species’. His name was Charles Darwin.

Working in business can be stressful and unrelenting – and can grow more stressful as we advance. Perhaps we would all benefit from a companion to provide a sounding board- someone who doesn’t report to us and we don’t report to. Maybe not a Darwin but perhaps someone who will benefit as much from the journey as you.

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