Darwin is named after 19th Century British naturalist and geologist, Charles Darwin. Prior to that the city was called Palmerston. And prior to that it was called Darwin.
The first British people to come across Darwin Harbour were apparently Commander John Clements Wickham and Lieutenant John Lort Stokes in 1839. They were aboard the HMS Beagle and they decided to name the port after Charles Darwin because he had sailed with them on a previous expedition.
The Northern Territory was a part of Queensland until 1863, when it became part of South Australia. In 1869, the SA Surveyor-General, George Goyder, established a settlement of 135 people at Port Darwin and he called the place Palmerston, after the British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston.
In 1870, workers started digging holes for the Overland Telegraph that would connect Australia with the rest of the world and they found gold. This resulted in a mini gold rush that saw the population swell to around 300 people!
The territory was later transferred to federal administration and, in 1911, Darwin officially became the city’s name.
Now, Lord Palmerston, who was officially known as Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston and had the nicknames ‘Pam’ and ‘The Mongoose’, was the most recent British PM to die in office (in 1865, aged 80). He became the fourth non-royal to be awarded a state funeral and be buried in Westminster Abbey (the first three were Isaac Newton, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington). Charles Darwin also got a big send off and a burial in Westminster Abbey (1882) but his name lives on in the territory, which could loosely be construed as an example of survival of the fittest. For now. Palmerston is still being planned as a satellite city within Darwin. And Palmerston got his name on two places in NZ from a distance – Palmerston in the South Island and Palmerston North in the North Island – but at least Darwin got to visit both NZ and Australia on his voyage with HMS Beagle. Poor Charlie suffered dreadfully from sea-sickness, even if the ship was in port, and he spent five years on the Beagle. A survivor indeed!