Voyage of the Beagle

In 1870, a short and inexpensive extract from Darwin's Journal of Researches (or Voyage of the Beagle) was published by Udvalget for Folkeoplysningens Fremme [The Committee for the Advancement of General Enlightenment] and reached a wide audience. Six years later, in 1876, a complete translation of the English 1860-edition appeared under the title Rejse om Jorden [Voyage around the World]. This exclusive publication was translated by the two young naturalists Emil Christian Hansen (1842-1909) and Alfred Jørgensen (1848-1925) who later went on to be notable physiologists and also famous for their work on beer fermentation. Their translation was markedly different from the 1870 edition.

In 1873 Hansen had finished his studies in natural history and his dissertation on bogs. During his university studies he worked as an unpaid assistant for Professor Japetus Steenstrup. Hansen came from a poor background, and at the time of the translation he was unemployed. The translation of the famous English naturalist was therefore a vital opportunity to earn some money. In 1879, he submitted his doctoral thesis on fermentation of beer and became chair of the Physiology Department of the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen. By the end of the nineteenth century, he was celebrated as the 'Pasteur of Scandinavia'. In the 1880s, his co-translator Jørgensen was director of his own private laboratory and commercialised Hansen’s new methods on cultivating yeast for beer production. While translating Voyage of the Beagle, Jørgensen worked as an assistant for the famous botanist Eugen Warming and wrote several articles on the anatomy of plant roots.

In their introductory remarks, Hansen and Jørgensen emphasised that they had tried to make a precise translation of the 1860-edition. However, they had chosen to omit notes and references to scientific works only relevant to experts. They included a biographical sketch based on the writings by the English-German physiologist William Preyer (1841-97), a prominent populariser of Darwin’s thoughts in Germany. Hansen and Jørgensen probably found the information on Darwin’s life and career in Preyer’s 1869 book Der Kampf um das Daseins. Eight new illustrations were added to the work, from an unknown source, and three images from Darwin's Coral reefs (1842) [and subsequent works].

Rejse om Jorden was never reprinted and Voyage of the Beagle has not been translated into Danish since.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev