Posted by: Rob Viens | July 16, 2013

In Living Color

Over the weekend the Beagle returned to Maldonado to finish up work on the schooner formerly known as the Unicorn. Darwin notes:

“After dinner sailed for Maldonado; arrived there at 11 at night, making a good passage.” (July 13)

“Enjoyed the rarity of clear, cloudless sky; the weather is cold; in the morning on shore there was some hoar frost.” (July 14)

As Darwin was enjoying the clear skies, I was struck by the work of an artist/blogger from Denmark named Mads Madson (who goes by the name Zuzahin) who runs the site ColorizedHistory. Zuzahin colorizes old (often famous) black and white images of people (such as Einstein, Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain), and creates pictures that look like actual color photos. Several months ago he created a color image of Darwin.

Zuzahin’s colorized image of Darwin:

colorized Darwin image

The only color images we have of Darwin are paintings, so it is interesting to imagine what he would look like in the “living color” of a photograph (or in person, for that mater).  It is funny how we tend to picture people in the past as being black and white, sepia, or oil color. The brain is funny like that.

Bringing to Darwin to life via colorization also raised another interesting question for me – what did he actually sound like? I’ve considered on occasion what it would be like to have a conversation with Darwin, but never really thought about what the tone or cadence of his voice would be.  Was he soft-spoken, a fast talker, a baritone? I’m sure there is something in the written records that might give us some idea (not that I have come across yet), however, it is still not the same as actually hearing Darwin speak.  Alas, short of time travel, it is not an experience any of us will ever get to have … (RJV)

PS – Be sure to check out Zuzahin’s tumblr site ColorizedHistory for other great colorized historical photos.


  1. Of course, that is not Darwin’s hand in the image. Photoshopped in for an image used in the Darwin exhibit a the Natural History Museum in London.

    • Thanks for the reminder about that added hand!I had not known that the Natural History museum was the source of that edit. By the way…I’ve enjoyed following your posts over at The Dispersal of Darwin. -Rob

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