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Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography

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Charles Darwin’s foremost biographer, Janet Browne, delivers a vivid and accessible introduction to the book that permanently altered our understanding of what it is to be human.  A sensation on its publication in 1859, The Origin of the Species profoundly shocked Victorian readers by calling into question the belief in a Creator with its description of evolution through Charles Darwin’s foremost biographer, Janet Browne, delivers a vivid and accessible introduction to the book that permanently altered our understanding of what it is to be human.  A sensation on its publication in 1859, The Origin of the Species profoundly shocked Victorian readers by calling into question the belief in a Creator with its description of evolution through natural selection.  And Darwin’s seminal work is nearly as controversial today.  In her illuminating study, Browne delves into the long genesis of Darwin’s theories, from his readings as a university student and his five-year voyage on the Beagle , to his debates with contemporaries and experiments in his garden.  She explores the shock to Darwin when he read of competing scientist’s similar discoveries and the wide and immediate impact of Darwin’s theories on the world. As one of the launch titles in Atlantic Monthly Press’ “Books That Changed the World” series, Browne’s history takes readers inside The Origin of the Species and shows why it can fairly claim to be the greatest science book ever published.


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Charles Darwin’s foremost biographer, Janet Browne, delivers a vivid and accessible introduction to the book that permanently altered our understanding of what it is to be human.  A sensation on its publication in 1859, The Origin of the Species profoundly shocked Victorian readers by calling into question the belief in a Creator with its description of evolution through Charles Darwin’s foremost biographer, Janet Browne, delivers a vivid and accessible introduction to the book that permanently altered our understanding of what it is to be human.  A sensation on its publication in 1859, The Origin of the Species profoundly shocked Victorian readers by calling into question the belief in a Creator with its description of evolution through natural selection.  And Darwin’s seminal work is nearly as controversial today.  In her illuminating study, Browne delves into the long genesis of Darwin’s theories, from his readings as a university student and his five-year voyage on the Beagle , to his debates with contemporaries and experiments in his garden.  She explores the shock to Darwin when he read of competing scientist’s similar discoveries and the wide and immediate impact of Darwin’s theories on the world. As one of the launch titles in Atlantic Monthly Press’ “Books That Changed the World” series, Browne’s history takes readers inside The Origin of the Species and shows why it can fairly claim to be the greatest science book ever published.

30 review for Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Appu Sasidharan

    (Throwback Review) Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is one of the books that changed the world. It played a pivotal role in our understanding of evolution. Janet Browne, in this book, tells us the story behind the origin of Darwin's theories and some details about his personal life. Sadly, she doesn't delve deeper into his life and fails to touch on many controversial topics that needed more discussion. Still, it will be a good introductory book for someone new to the concept of evo (Throwback Review) Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species is one of the books that changed the world. It played a pivotal role in our understanding of evolution. Janet Browne, in this book, tells us the story behind the origin of Darwin's theories and some details about his personal life. Sadly, she doesn't delve deeper into his life and fails to touch on many controversial topics that needed more discussion. Still, it will be a good introductory book for someone new to the concept of evolution.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dillwynia Peter

    I’m divided about this book. I heard it as an audiobook somewhere in the Outback & so couldn’t judge the thickness. It’s a slim book & as such I would not have taken it off the shelf. This probably sounds snobbish, but it isn’t meant to be, and I shall explain. I read Darwin’s Origin of Species not long after its 1st edition – it was some years ago, let’s just say. Actually, if this little book is correct, I probably read the 6th Edition (Darwin constantly re-wrote chunks of this till he died) so I’m divided about this book. I heard it as an audiobook somewhere in the Outback & so couldn’t judge the thickness. It’s a slim book & as such I would not have taken it off the shelf. This probably sounds snobbish, but it isn’t meant to be, and I shall explain. I read Darwin’s Origin of Species not long after its 1st edition – it was some years ago, let’s just say. Actually, if this little book is correct, I probably read the 6th Edition (Darwin constantly re-wrote chunks of this till he died) sometime in the early 1990s. I have also read some of Wallace’s works, Hooker’s introductory essays on southern hemisphere biogeography, and something by Huxley (my paper book diary isn’t at hand); and I have a book of his essays stashed in the library awaiting to be read. I would like to think I know a bit about these earlier writers etc. What I was thinking I was getting was another essay on interpreting the impact on the world on Darwin’s work etc. You do get that, but not as a critical analysis based on new insights & thought. What you **do** get is a lovely overall review of Darwin, his times, those people he worked with & the consequent affects in both the wider community, but also for evolutionary biologists. What I liked about the book was the easy digestible bits about Darwin: his personal & professional life, and the effect he had on science. Then there are his close friends – Hooker, Huxley & Lyell. We do sidestep the very thorny bit about Wallace’s treatment after publication of Origin of Species. Wallace is given his due, and his later studies are commented on – but this is about Darwin, after all. I really liked the last portion that dealt with his influence into eugenics, business and sociobiology (survival of the fittest mantra); and I liked the commentary regarding the New Science movement of Julian Huxley, Ernst Mayer & George Gaylord Simpson. It brought back those days in Honours & MSc days when I read all this & much more – based primarily from the initial readings made as an undergrad. What I didn’t like was the lack of depth. For me, it gave me no new insights nor in depth analysis. I ended up knowing only one new piece of info (listed above regarding editions) and was a big disappointment for me. The matter of Darwin's health issues - which is always fun to speculate, is also given a whitewash job; not something I would expect from an eminent biographer. (Actually, I think the Desmond & Moore biography [from the early 90s] to be the acme of them all.) It took me a little time to realise that this book should be treated as either a general intro for those that don’t know the field and want to learn, or as a crib to some undergrad doing a general evolution course at uni. This is fine, but not what I, the grumpy well read botanist, wanted. It has made me, however, hunt out those books and articles that I do need to read that are missing from my previous readings. That isn’t a bad thing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Moore

    This selective biography highlights Darwin's early career and then focuses on his famous theory with a brief background of his work and how it was received upon release. As a young man, Darwin attempted to study in the medical profession and ended up training to be an Anglican priest. He later signed up for a voyage on the HMS Beagle as a naturalist and while surveying and charting the coasts of South America, Europe, and Asia, he kept journals on geology, plant and animal life leading to years This selective biography highlights Darwin's early career and then focuses on his famous theory with a brief background of his work and how it was received upon release. As a young man, Darwin attempted to study in the medical profession and ended up training to be an Anglican priest. He later signed up for a voyage on the HMS Beagle as a naturalist and while surveying and charting the coasts of South America, Europe, and Asia, he kept journals on geology, plant and animal life leading to years of research. I was touched by his devotion to his wife and children with whom he spent a great deal of time sharing his discoveries. Browne mentioned the depression Darwin suffered when his daughter died young after an illness. He had suffered many years with heart problems and stomach troubles himself. I learned a lot about Charles Darwin in this short book, but would have enjoyed a more narrative biography. It would be a good introduction to Darwin's The Origin of Species.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book is more difficult for me to rate, as it almost felt more like a text book. I wanted to learn more about Darwin's theories after recently going to the Galapagos Islands, and this book served that purpose well. It was just a touch dry. Can you really spice up evolutionary theory though? The last chapter that discussed resistance to the theory and lawsuits around it was quite interesting however. The book is part of a series called 'Books that changed the world'. Realizing that 'The Origi This book is more difficult for me to rate, as it almost felt more like a text book. I wanted to learn more about Darwin's theories after recently going to the Galapagos Islands, and this book served that purpose well. It was just a touch dry. Can you really spice up evolutionary theory though? The last chapter that discussed resistance to the theory and lawsuits around it was quite interesting however. The book is part of a series called 'Books that changed the world'. Realizing that 'The Origin of Species' is one of those is not any stretch of the imagination - it was absolutely revolutionary.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    Dense yet brief, not a biography of Darwin but a story of the conception, creation and reception of the book that changed everything. Other men were cast out of society for promoting very similar theories: Darwin's mild-mannered character and lovely writing helped make "On the Origin of the Species" a hit. Dense yet brief, not a biography of Darwin but a story of the conception, creation and reception of the book that changed everything. Other men were cast out of society for promoting very similar theories: Darwin's mild-mannered character and lovely writing helped make "On the Origin of the Species" a hit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma Chen

    For assignment... Interesting to know the story behind natural selection

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kimbolimbo

    I loved reading this right after reading On The Origin of Species. Very good supplemental text.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia

    Some excellent insights here by Janet Browne. Browne lights the path of history for the reader, showing how Darwin's magnificent thesis affected science, culture, human rights, education, and even literature. If you want to know the impact of Darwin's thesis, I'd first recommend reading the original (1st edition) of On the Origin of Species (it's Victorian, yes, but you probably read Dickens in high school, so you can handle it. Deep breaths and a dark beer will get you through it.), then read B Some excellent insights here by Janet Browne. Browne lights the path of history for the reader, showing how Darwin's magnificent thesis affected science, culture, human rights, education, and even literature. If you want to know the impact of Darwin's thesis, I'd first recommend reading the original (1st edition) of On the Origin of Species (it's Victorian, yes, but you probably read Dickens in high school, so you can handle it. Deep breaths and a dark beer will get you through it.), then read Browne. This is about to get pedantic, because I am a professor that teaches evolution at the college level. A few missteps: No mention whatsoever of Patrick Matthew, the Scottish naturalist that set forth a description of natural selection 26 years before Darwin. The most damning evidence that Darwin did, indeed, read Matthew's work is the extremely similar "Imagine a tangled bank" passage. A recent work by Dr. Mike Sutton, Nullius in Verba - Darwin's Greatest Secret (Thinker Books, 2014), goes into this controversy with more detail. Also, in a discussion of Kettlewell's impeccable natural experiments on page 142, Browne states that the lighter moths were more easily seen by birds on trees that had been "blackened by soot". That's only half the reason. Yes, soot landed on the trees, but not really in enough quantity to blacken them, like what you might see on buildings near smokestacks (think Pittsburgh). The soot in the air choked the lichens that cover the tree trunks, and without the lichens (a colorful array of grays, whites, and greens) the lighter moths stood out starkly. It's the lack of lichens that lead to the lighter lepidopterans' lessoning.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendelle

    ''These five years on the Beagle voyage were the making of him. Some of them were spent galloping on hired horses, striking camp in new places every night, hunting game for supper with companions from the ship, discussing the news from back home and enjoying himself; they were an extension of the carefree days as a Cambridge undergraduate... In Montevideo they marched into town armed tot he teeth to quell a political uprising. In Tasmania they attended a very fine concert. In the far south they ''These five years on the Beagle voyage were the making of him. Some of them were spent galloping on hired horses, striking camp in new places every night, hunting game for supper with companions from the ship, discussing the news from back home and enjoying himself; they were an extension of the carefree days as a Cambridge undergraduate... In Montevideo they marched into town armed tot he teeth to quell a political uprising. In Tasmania they attended a very fine concert. In the far south they were nearly capsized by a calving glacier. Out in the forest near Conception Darwin felth the earth buckle under his feet in a major earthquake. He swam in coral lagoons, was entranced by birdsong in a tropical forest, and contemplated the stars from the top of a pass on the Cordillera de los Andes."(Browne) This Darwin dude seriously lived a nice Victorian adventurer's life. This slim book is a great passport to Darwin's world and formative experiences. It chronicles the events in his life, up to and during the book's publication. It is interesting to know that in the intervening years Darwin spent 8 years studying barnacles. You also get to meet his 4 'apostles'- his 4 scientific defenders, Asa Gray, TH Huxley, Hooker and Lyell, who organized his cohesive defense and directed the discussions in centers of learning to make sure Darwinism became accepted. However this is very much an introductory text in the history of evolutionary sciences. Altogether very straightforward.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carla

    Standard, dry biography by a solid liberal historian. Good as far as it goes. White, male, propertied, heterosexual says that we evolved along with the rest of the animal kingdom. Supports industrialism, imperialism and gets buried in Westminster despite the fact that he was a major player in dethroning God as the alpha and omega of creation. Browne lists the ways in which the science of evolution has been abused by numerous parties thru the 20th century. It would be also interesting to hear wha Standard, dry biography by a solid liberal historian. Good as far as it goes. White, male, propertied, heterosexual says that we evolved along with the rest of the animal kingdom. Supports industrialism, imperialism and gets buried in Westminster despite the fact that he was a major player in dethroning God as the alpha and omega of creation. Browne lists the ways in which the science of evolution has been abused by numerous parties thru the 20th century. It would be also interesting to hear what evolution has made possible in terms of scientific progress. Evolutionary psychology has just begun to think about how different parts of the brain have evolved - I look forward to reading more about why the idea of 'evolution' even matters.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sybil Hernandez

    Enjoyed it. Not an easy biography to breeze through; but it was not the easy life for Darwin and his struggle to write the Origin of Species. I found it to be really thought provoking. (I had to stop in middle of some paragraphs and contemplate about what was going on.) This is not a book that I would read just to idly past time. I would recommend it for people who are science nerds; not because of a difficult wording, but because of scientist like Darwin who theories go against the trends of th Enjoyed it. Not an easy biography to breeze through; but it was not the easy life for Darwin and his struggle to write the Origin of Species. I found it to be really thought provoking. (I had to stop in middle of some paragraphs and contemplate about what was going on.) This is not a book that I would read just to idly past time. I would recommend it for people who are science nerds; not because of a difficult wording, but because of scientist like Darwin who theories go against the trends of the society they live in.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

    Style is clear and engaging, and the story told thought-provoking. From time to time, subjective historical interpretations or a certain bias can be seen in the pages, but for the most part, the book is a very interesting insight in the history, the precedents and the outcomes of Darwin's theories. A must-read for anyone interested in the History of Biology, or aiming to understand present-day confrontations between evolution and creationism. Style is clear and engaging, and the story told thought-provoking. From time to time, subjective historical interpretations or a certain bias can be seen in the pages, but for the most part, the book is a very interesting insight in the history, the precedents and the outcomes of Darwin's theories. A must-read for anyone interested in the History of Biology, or aiming to understand present-day confrontations between evolution and creationism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Great to read about Darwin's life, development of theories, and interaction with other scientists. Janet Browne discusses how Darwin's theories influenced social theories of survival of the fittest, which was illuminating. Great to read about Darwin's life, development of theories, and interaction with other scientists. Janet Browne discusses how Darwin's theories influenced social theories of survival of the fittest, which was illuminating.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Astrid Dzul Hori

    It's a general approach to one of the most important books in the history of science. Janet Browne specially emphasizes in Darwin's context to understand how such scientific contributions could be done and how this theory was thought and adapted to develop other scientific and social problems. It's a general approach to one of the most important books in the history of science. Janet Browne specially emphasizes in Darwin's context to understand how such scientific contributions could be done and how this theory was thought and adapted to develop other scientific and social problems.

  15. 5 out of 5

    neil jordan

    A Stimulating Book for the General Reader A very interesting review of Darwin's life, influences and impact on scientific thinking. The book is well written and straightforward to follow. Recommended. A Stimulating Book for the General Reader A very interesting review of Darwin's life, influences and impact on scientific thinking. The book is well written and straightforward to follow. Recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Bolton

    Charming and concise introduction to Darwin ; his life and thought, made me want to read the full bio by browne immediately .

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A contemporary look at Charles Darwin, his book 'Origin of Species', the voyage of the HMS Beagle and how Origin has affected research since it's publishing to the present day. A contemporary look at Charles Darwin, his book 'Origin of Species', the voyage of the HMS Beagle and how Origin has affected research since it's publishing to the present day.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sonia

    I really like her great overview of 19th century thought, especially in the area of science. It's a great introduction to Darwin's Origin. I really like her great overview of 19th century thought, especially in the area of science. It's a great introduction to Darwin's Origin.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ville Kokko

    An entertaining, inspiring book about the background, creation, reception and legacy of The Origin of Species. I was looking for some light reading for a science enthusiast such as myself and was quite satisfied. An entertaining, inspiring book about the background, creation, reception and legacy of The Origin of Species. I was looking for some light reading for a science enthusiast such as myself and was quite satisfied.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    A good overview of the origin’s origin, it’s reception and it’s legacy. Wish it had been made even clearer that Darwin was not responsible for social Darwinism.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacquelyn Fusco

    Nice, short volume. Much easier than actually reading Origin, although I kind of want to. This will do for now.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Fauque

    This book is well-written but it didn't grab my attention and pull me in. This book is well-written but it didn't grab my attention and pull me in.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Evie Crudele

    for class :-)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erica Guzzo

    Accessible overview

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bev Simpson

    This was a fascinating read of the Biography of the Origin of Species by the excellent Janet Browne who is so knowledgeable, perceptive and an excellent writer. I have read a lot about Darwin and Origin lately - before and after a recent trip to the Gapapagos with National Geographic. This book was the best of a good lot. Fascinating Life, fascinating results.

  26. 4 out of 5

    JC

    I'm starting a year-long course on Victorian Science taught by Bernie Lightman, so I thought I would get a quick overview of Darwin's landmark publication before starting the course as Darwin's a central figure in the course material. I found this book to be illuminating, interesting, and very accessible. I loved reading about the abolitionist/anti-slavery history of Darwin's family, as well as Darwin's observations of slavery in the Portugese colonies of the so-called 'new world'. It was also i I'm starting a year-long course on Victorian Science taught by Bernie Lightman, so I thought I would get a quick overview of Darwin's landmark publication before starting the course as Darwin's a central figure in the course material. I found this book to be illuminating, interesting, and very accessible. I loved reading about the abolitionist/anti-slavery history of Darwin's family, as well as Darwin's observations of slavery in the Portugese colonies of the so-called 'new world'. It was also interesting to read about the sad turn his theories took with his half-cousin Francis Galton, who was one of the pioneering figures of social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism. This was particularly useful while reading the last chapter of Du Bois's biography on John Brown, which is a fascinating critique of eugenicist ideology. Unexpectedly, one of my favourite parts of the book was the titillating story of "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation", anonymously published by Robert Chambers. I'll be reading a whole book by James A. Secord on Chambers' "Vestiges" for the Victorian science course I'm taking. This book by Browne was a very good introduction on that scandalous little pubication. And of course, one of my favourite parts of this book was all the stuff on radical politics. I was not aware that Alfred Wallace was a utopian socialist (as well as an anti-vaxxer lol which I learned from Prof Lightman this past week). Anyway an excerpt from Browne's book: “Wallace came to reject the competitive aspects of Darwinian biology as applied to human society and supported utopian socialist principles. Elsewhere J. Keir Hardy argued that progress took place via group selection in which individuals felt sympathy for one another. In Russia, the prevailing ideology was that the main struggle for existence was not species against species, but species against the environment. The émigré Russian Prince, Peter Kropotkin, pushed this furthest in Mutual Aid (1902), arguing that evolution’s main driving force was cooperation, exactly the reverse of competition. Socialist thinkers such as George Bernard Shaw insisted on the moral superiority of Lamarckian ideas, where the effects of the environment were believed to be more important in shaping human character than inbuilt biological properties. J. B. S. Haldane confidently declared ‘Darwinism is dead’.” Actually in Subramanian's Haldane biography, goes a lot into the backdrop of eugenicist fervour that Haldane was trying to push back against throughout most of his academic career. It's appropriate that Browne mentions the communist geneticist Haldane because she does a wonderful job describing the revolutionary background within which Origin is published: “It is often hard to remember just how unstable British society was in these first four decades of the nineteenth century. The nation came as close to revolution as it ever had: conflict between landlords and manufacturers, workers against masters, province versus metropolis, the hungry and mutinous threatening the commercially minded, individualistic middle classes. Benjamin Disraeli’s imagery of two nations, rich and poor, was not fanciful. ‘The People’s Charter’, drawn up in 1838, with its famous six points – suffrage, the ballot, equal electoral districts, abolition of property qualifications, payment for MPs, and annual parliaments – frightened the political establishment deeply. A huge demonstration in 1839 ended in a bloody confrontation with the military. The last great Chartist rally on Kennington Common in 1848, although more peaceable and socialist in character, additionally reflected the agonies of Irish famine and political suppression. Karl Marx, surveying Britain through the eyes of his mill-owning friend Friedrich Engels in the 1840s, argued that capitalism was doomed to choke on its own surplus. This early fear of revolution is hard to recapture nowadays. There was widespread unease about any social or political activities that threatened the status quo. Prime among these were evolutionary notions: publicly to adopt transformist ideas was at that time to brand oneself as a dangerous political radical. Most notorious of all were the two men Darwin had already read, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) and his own grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802). Between the years 1798 and 1809, Lamarck and Erasmus Darwin had independently proposed that animals and plants were not directly controlled by a divine creator but spontaneously generated out of inorganic materials. ” Anyway, a fascinating book by an excellent historian of science.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kitty

    This book is one of a series titled Books That Changed the World published by Atlantic Monthly Press. This is the only one of the series I've read. It's short at 153 pages, and about the page size of a small paperback, so the author gives only a general look at various aspects. There are 5 chapters titled as follows: 1, Beginnings; 2, 'A theory by which to work'; 3, Publication; 4, Controversy; 5, Legacy. Throughout the book the author gives probably enough information to get started if you want This book is one of a series titled Books That Changed the World published by Atlantic Monthly Press. This is the only one of the series I've read. It's short at 153 pages, and about the page size of a small paperback, so the author gives only a general look at various aspects. There are 5 chapters titled as follows: 1, Beginnings; 2, 'A theory by which to work'; 3, Publication; 4, Controversy; 5, Legacy. Throughout the book the author gives probably enough information to get started if you want to look into any of the topics she presents. Also there is a bibliography, and an index. I don't know if the rest of the series suffers with the drawbacks of this book, but it may. The problems seem to be not giving enough space to develop themes in the text and hurrying to publish. It seems a bit of a cursory look at the subject. However, as I said above, there is enough information to start with if you want to look into it further, and maybe that is the point of the series rather than to give a thorough look at any of the books. The other problem I noticed was one related to proofreading and fact checking. Charles S. Peirce's name was spelled 'Pierce' in both the text and the index. Andrei Sakarov's name was spelled correctly in the text but spelled 'Sakariv' in the index. Alfred Lord Tennyson's name was spelled 'Tennnyson' in the text but spelled correctly in the index. So just a closer attention to detail was needed. I think the book was worthwhile reading as it gave me a better understanding of the circumstances of Darwin's life and the publication of his opus. Also, it whetted my appetite and I am now thinking I would like to read Darwin's book on his adventures on the Beagle and also a biography.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    This book provides an excellent introduction to Darwin, and should be a minimum "must read" for everyone in 2009, as that year is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Origin of Species." Janet Browne has devoted almost her entire academic career, since receiving her PhD in the early 1980's, to the study of Charles Darwin. Her two-volume biography of Darwin, "Charles Darwin: Voyaging" (1995) and "Charles Darwin: The Power of Place" (2002) are re This book provides an excellent introduction to Darwin, and should be a minimum "must read" for everyone in 2009, as that year is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Origin of Species." Janet Browne has devoted almost her entire academic career, since receiving her PhD in the early 1980's, to the study of Charles Darwin. Her two-volume biography of Darwin, "Charles Darwin: Voyaging" (1995) and "Charles Darwin: The Power of Place" (2002) are recognized as the preeminent Darwin biographies of this generation of historical research. In "Darwin's Origin of the Species: A Biography," Browne sets the man and the book in the context of both Darwin's times and the contemporary knowledge of science. She accomplishes this in a brief, clearly written 153 pages that can be easily digested by the general public. Browne's Darwin is fascinating and engaging, and she shows the conflict and creative scientific ferment that resulted from the book's publication. We live in a time when some religious communities in the United States have launched efforts to repeal the teaching of the ideas of evolution in our schools. Any citizen sympathetic to the goals and achievements of science should understand how fundamental evolutionary ideas are for continued advancement of research programs of the biological sciences. This book provides a base of knowledge that will lead the average reader toward a greater appreciation for the historical achievements of Darwin. This book will also be the Linda Hall Library's One Book reading program for February 12, 2009 (held on the bicentennial of Darwin's birth).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    I recently finished The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins and it inspired me to learn more about Charles Darwin. I'd read Voyage of the Beagle before, and I was quite taken with Darwin's writing in that book, but I found the prospect of taking on The Origin of Species rather daunting for some reason. I found this little book and thought I should give it a go before diving into On the Origin of Species. I was not disappointed. This book provides an excellent min I recently finished The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins and it inspired me to learn more about Charles Darwin. I'd read Voyage of the Beagle before, and I was quite taken with Darwin's writing in that book, but I found the prospect of taking on The Origin of Species rather daunting for some reason. I found this little book and thought I should give it a go before diving into On the Origin of Species. I was not disappointed. This book provides an excellent mini-biography of Darwin and details the publication and legacy of Origin. I learned a lot from this little book and would definitely recommend it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    This is a short but interesting look at Darwin's life, how he came to arrive at his theory of evolution, how that theory sparked enormous controversy at the time (a controversy which continues to this day for some), and how it ultimately changed how we view the world. What I found perhaps most fascinating (and disturbing) was how Darwinism, in some small part, played a role in the rise of eugenics, genocide and racial prejudices. As much as I realized how important Darwin's work was on a biologi This is a short but interesting look at Darwin's life, how he came to arrive at his theory of evolution, how that theory sparked enormous controversy at the time (a controversy which continues to this day for some), and how it ultimately changed how we view the world. What I found perhaps most fascinating (and disturbing) was how Darwinism, in some small part, played a role in the rise of eugenics, genocide and racial prejudices. As much as I realized how important Darwin's work was on a biological level, I don't think I'd ever fully considered the sociological impact, nor how it lead some to the idea that certain humans were more evolved, and thus superior to others. These sort of thoughts also existed in history pre-Darwin, of course, but it was interesting to explore these events from this perspective. This book is marketed as (and titled) a biography, and though it is in part, I would say it is much more a summary of the scientific history surrounding evolutionary theory.

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