So I've finished reading 'This Thing of Darkness' a fictional account of the voyage of the Beagle and, not wanting to spoil the ending for anybody, the demise of Captain FitzRoy is a sorry tale indeed.
Briefly, Fitzroy was appointed captain of the Beagle and given the task of surveying around the coast of South America. Due to a depressive tendency, Fitzroy employed a companion aboard the Beagle, for their second voyage - a young trainee Anglican parson, by the name of Charles Darwin. FitzRoy and his crew spent more than five away from England, with Darwin - who returned home having formulated his ideas on evolution thanks to all the different things he had seen on the voyage. FitzRoy was a deeply religious man and despite maintaining a close relationship with Darwin during the trip, could not agree with the findings of his friend, given his own belief in god and the great flood.
After his captaincy, FitzRoy went on to serve as a member of parliament, and in 1843 he was even appointed governor of New Zealand. Returning to England, he developed the first weather forecasting system - which was heavily criticised during his lifetime, although he is now seen as a pioneer of meteorology. Fitzroy had a tough life - although by today's standards, most of the people that lived during Fitzroy's time had a tough existence. His beloved first wife died of cholera, and he felt deeply responsible for the changes that had occurred thanks to Darwin's work. From H2G2:
Whether it was his apparent failure as a weatherman, persistent ill-health (including the onset of deafness), or the fact that he'd essentially aided and abetted Darwin's anti-Creationist heresy that cost Robert FitzRoy his life will never be known for sure. But on 30 April, 1865, Robert FitzRoy - now promoted to Vice Admiral - got up early without waking his wife, kissed his daughter, locked himself in his dressing room of his home in Upper Norwood, and cut his throat with a razor. He was no stranger to suicide; his uncle, Lord Viscount Castlereigh had taken his own life in 1822, and his first command, of the Beagle, had been as a result Pringle-Stockes' self-inflicted demise.
And despite FitzRoy's great life, his story reminds me of that of George Price - the man who set out to prove that altruism isn't caused by genetic selfishness but ended up killing himself with nail scissors after he proved it absolutely correct. It seems that these people really do believe that a god made them and perhaps finally, when the truth eventually sets in, the cognitive dissonance is too much, and metal meets skin so the pain is over. Everything is pointless, but killing yourself because there is no god, is even more pointless still.Go Top