Thinking back to two posts earlier this week - that of the centenary of Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica and the shepherds' way of counting sheep - I found a link to another great historical figure - Charles Darwin. Only a tenuous link in each case, but on such links rests history.
Darwin's bi-centenary falls this year. He was born on February 12th 1809. After attending Shrewsbury school as a boarder (he lived half a mile down the road and developed his running skills by nipping home each evening after "prep" and getting back in time for lights out!), he was destined for life as a doctor, like his father. But attendance at two operations - one on a child - before the introduction of chloroform- put him off medicine for life. Then his father persuaded him to become a clergyman and this he would have done except for a small incident, which changed the course of history. He was offered a place as Naturalist on HMS Beagle, which was to sail on an Admiralty survey around the world. And that changed the course of his life for ever.
Sitting aboard HMS Beagle in Good Success Bay in Tierra del Fuego, he thought, "I could not enjoy my life better than in adding a little to Natural Science!"
He attributed the success of "The Origin of Species" to its moderate size. He said that he originally intended it to be five times as large, in which case he thought few would have had the patience to read it.
And the link to shepherds' counting method? As a young man, Darwin was a keen shooter. When he went shooting he would fasten a piece of string to his buttonhole and every time he shot a bird he would tie a knot in the string, thus keeping an accurate tally of his prowess.
Of such tiny incidents is history made.