32. Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)
"Observations on the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, and of other parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an attempt to prove that they are of marine origin." In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1839, pp. 39-81.
Detail of a map of Glen Roy, with the Parallel Roads marked in red, from Charles Darwin, “Observations”, 1839.
View of the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, from Charles Darwin, “Observations”, 1839.
Young Charles Darwin, three years back from his voyage on HMS Beagle, and having just sent his travel narrative off to the publisher, turned to a geological problem: the origin of the so-called Parallel Roads of Glen Roy in Lochaber in Scotland.
In his first paper for the prestigious Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, he suggested that the “roads” were ancient shore lines from a time when the sea was about 1200 feet higher and covered much of the landscape.
The land had then slowly been elevated, and whenever the elevation was paused or interrupted, a new shore line was formed.
In 1839, Darwin did not know much about glaciers, or anything about the glacial theory, and the idea that ice might have played a major role in the formation of the Roads of Glen Roy never entered his mind.