In 1835 Charles Darwin's geological observations on Isla Santiago (James Island) in the Galápagos Islands led him to important insights as to the process by which different varieties of igneous rock might be produced from the same volcanic vent. His work figured in a tradition of interpretation that began with the work of George Poulett Scrope and would end in the twentieth century with the theory of magmatic differentiation of igneous rocks through the process of crystal fractionation. This article reports on the findings of an expedition to Isla Santiago in July 2007 during which we were able to locate samples of igneous rocks similar to those collected by Darwin. We have used these, together with Darwin's original specimens and transcriptions of his field notes, to examine how his understanding of the separation of the trachytic and basaltic series of magmas developed from his initial field observations through to publication of Volcanic Islands in 1844.

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