was the first to make a scientific study of the
islands. He was a young student just out of university and was the
naturalist on a round-the-world scientific and geographical voyage
on board the HMS Beagle (1831 - 1836).
Darwin reached the Galapagos on September 15 1835 and spent about
five weeks, until October 20, studying the geology and biology on
four of the thirteen islands. It was here that he began to develop
his theories of evolution.
During WWII Ecuador authorized the United States
to establish a naval base in Baltra Island and radar stations in
other strategic locations.
In 1959, with funds raised from various
scientists and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) the
Charles Darwin Research Center
was established. That same year, Ecuador declared the Galapagos a
National Park and 95% of the archipelago was protected.
Organized tourism began in the mid-60s with a
little over 1,000 visitors a year, a number which has increased
ten-fold over the decades with an estimated 60,000 tourists visiting
the islands in 1991.
UNESCO recognised the islands as a World Heritage
Site in 1978, which was extended in December 2001 to include the
marine reserve. The Charles Darwin Foundation dedicated to the
conservation of the islands was founded in Belgium in 1959.