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requested that he might be allowed to
remain in charge of the Keppel Island
base. In the following year, he perfect-
ed the language.
By 1879, he had completed a dic-
tionary containing over 30,000 words.
Bridges was the first Anglican mission-
ary to succeed in setting up a mission
in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, now
known as Ushuaia.
A mission leader on one occasion
reported on the baptism of 36 Fuegians,
adults and children, and the marriage of
seven couples; the baptized then began
“spontaneously organizing evening
worship and meeting in each other’s
houses for prayer and praise.” 5
ater Darwin met in person some
of the redeemed natives. Although
there is no record, he could only con-
clude that it was not evolution that
made the change to those he had de-
scribed as the very lowest of the human
race—but the Gospel.
Darwin was not entirely without
Christian influence. He had observed
and admired the work of the mission-
aries during his voyage of the Beagle,
even though it was his opinion that
nothing could change such uncivilized
Missionary Society (SAMS). SAMS
annual reports used to include names
of donors and subscribers, and tucked
away in the long list for 1867 is that
of “Darwin, Charles, Esq., per Admiral
Sullivan £5.” 6
Charles Darwin died in
County Kent, United
Kingdom, of congestive heart
failure on April 19, 1882.
of the human race.
I had always replied that I did not
believe any human beings existed too
low to comprehend the simple message
of the Gospel of Christ.”
In1870 Darwin wrote to Sullivan
the following: “The success of the
Tierra del Fuego Mission is most won-
derful, and charms [or shames] me,
as I had always prophesied utter fail-
ure. It is a grand success. I shall feel
proud if your Committee think fit to
elect me an honorary member of your
society.” He later added this commentary:
“I certainly could not have predicted
Westminster Abbey, London
During the last 15
years of his life,
Charles Darwin became a
supporter and donor
to the South American
Missionary Society (SAMS).
Rear Admiral Sir James Sullivan
had sailed with him as second lieuten-
ant on the famous voyage of the Beagle.
The two became close friends, a friend-
ship that lasted a lifetime. Sullivan
also worked with the South American
Mission Society (SAMS). Sullivan kept
Darwin fully updated on the progress
with the work. Thomas Bridges, the
pioneer missionary to the region, was
also a correspondent of Darwin.
uring the last 15 years of his life,
Charles Darwin became a sup-
porter and donor to the South American
D His support continued until he died
in April 1882.
Sullivan later recalled, “Mr. Darwin
had often expressed to me his convic-
tion that it was utterly useless to send
missionaries to such a set of savages as
the Fuegians, probably the very lowest
5 John W. Howe and Samuel C. Pascoe, Our Anglican Heritage, 2nd ed. (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010), 120.
An imprim of Wipf and Stock Publishers
6 Home/Our Stories/Charles Darwin: “I was wrong” Church Mission Society 2016—Registered Charity Number 1131655
(England and Wales) and SC047163 (Scotland)
that not all the missionaries in the world
could have done what has been done.”
(Life and Letters of Charles Darwin,
London: Church Times, 1887). This
article first appeared in Share, the mag-
azine of the South American Mission
Society. NATIONS • 9