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Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 1 - Voyaging Reprint Edition

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691026060
ISBN-10: 0691026068
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The centerpiece of this vivid portrait of Darwin, the first volume of a two-volume biography, is an account of his five-year expedition on the Beagle (1831-36), which transformed a seasick, Cambridge-educated science apprentice into a keen observer of nature and amateur geologist. Drawing on a wealth of new material from family archives, Brown masterfully recreates the personal, cultural and intellectual matrix out of which Darwin's evolutionary theory took shape. We glimpse many facets of Darwin: the failed medical student; the laid-back undergraduate; the impassioned abolitionist; the explorer roping cattle with gauchos on the Argentine pampas; the chronically ill country squire, the patriarchal husband and reluctant atheist whose devout Anglican wife, Emma, disapproved of his theory of human origins. Browne, an English historian of science and associate editor of Darwin's Correspondence, captures the spirit of a quietly revolutionary scientist whose ingrained Victorian prejudices were at odds with his radical ideas. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

After editing eight volumes of Darwin's correspondence (available from Cambridge University Press), Browne has many new insights into this complex figure. Her new book, the first volume in a planned two-volume biography, describes Darwin's childhood, education, his voyage on the Beagle, family life, and early researches to 1856, as he begins serious work on his "species book." As in Adrian Desmond and James Moore's Darwin (LJ 5/15/92), Darwin is seen more as a product of his society than in some previous biographies. Desmond and Moore delve more deeply into Darwin's university days than does Browne, while she provides a more detailed account of his Beagle voyage. While calling any Darwin biography "definitive" may be a bit optimistic, this work is certainly an important contribution to the literature on Darwin. Highly recommended for both academic and general collections.
Bruce Neville, Univ. of Texas at El Paso Lib.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 622 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691026068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691026060
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on November 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I see a biography that tops out at over 600 pages, I usually give it a pass. I mean, how much do I really want to know about someone - anyone? Also, as far as Darwin goes, I had already read the excellent life by Desmond and Moore. Yet I went through this book avidly, and would have been sorry to see it end - but that I knew volume II was waiting!
I actually only noticed this book because of the laudatory reviews that appeared recently for volume II ("The Power of Place"). Perhaps it is true that I cannot get enough of Darwin, so I was drawn to this as any addict to his fix. But I think that for me the most appealing thing about Charles Darwin is his quintessential Victorianism. He lived and worked in a privileged position in a culture that was as sublimely self-confident as any the world has ever seen, and that, moreover, bestrode that world as none before or since (our blundering and half-hearted imperialism not excepted).
Actually, the Darwin Story is becoming canonical. Our culture is about the clash of narratives as much as anything else. The Free Market opposes the Welfare State, the Promise of Progress is really the Erosion of Identity, and, most shrilly, the Blind Watchmaker threatens to displace the Christian God.
So, I suppose that to read this book is to choose sides. Shame about that, but there it is. Anyway, even if you know the story, this book (and its sequel) will tell it better and deeper. Janet Browne has not only mastered the Darwin materials, but his milieu as well. She seems to have gone far afield in researching the lives of those that impinged on Darwin, just in order to make throwaway statements and large judgments on people who are perhaps bit players in his life.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Sullivan on January 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Janet Browne has written quite a cliff hanger. She leaves off just when Charles Darwin is going public with his then astounding theory. Hopefully Volume II is just around the corner. The agony is unbearable.
Darwin's life is painted with a broad brush. We are given a picture of natural science in Mid-Victorian England. All the players and issues taking place in natural science at that time are illuminated. Miraculously Browne pulls this off without becoming tedious, exhausting, or overhwelming the reader. It's quite a feat.
Browne gives us a peek inside Charles Darwin and we can feel the pull between what is becoming clearly evident to him and the deeply ingrained beliefs of a man who earlier in life was headed for a life as a country parson. He was also upset at how all of this was going to settle on his deeply religious wife. Browne manages this without falling into the trap of psychological analysis, Freudian or otherwise.
I wish all biographies could be as readable and as lucid as this one. As another reviewer here has said: this will become the definitive biography of Darwin's life. I agree. I would rate this book in the top 10 of books of all time on the history of science. Seeing how Darwin is still at center stage in the fight for science education in our schools, this book should be required reading for anyone interested contemporary education or science.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Sullivan on December 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Though it never lacks for details about Darwin's life, Janet Browne creates a panoramic sweep of Victorian science. One sees Darwin in full context, as a man of his time struggling with ideas that grew from his research and explorations and yet they were ideas that he himself was not truly comfortable with.
Browne presents the story without a lots of overdramatization. The book is hugely dramatic though the drama comes from the details and not the presentation. It is not a hagiography. There no kettle drums rumbling in the background.
When you read the book you will gain insights into how science grew from an amateur affectation of afternoon beetle collecting trips to the countryside, to a fully recognized profession. Browne miraculously pulls this off without ever leaving sight of Darwin and his life.
Like a good "Perils of Pauline" Saturday morning serial, the volume I leaves off at the most incisive part of Darwin's career, thus leaving thousands of readers waiting breathlessly for Volume II.
The book seems so complete so I passed on reading any other biographies of Darwin, but I did find Adrian Desmond's Huxley : From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest to be a good companion work and interim filler. T.H. Huxley took up Darwin's cause and became known as "Darwin's Bulldog" This was however just one role that Huxley filled. Huxley himself is also giant of the emerging science movement in Victorian England.
I feel that part of my life is missing until Browne's Volume II arrives.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on November 16, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first volume of two covering the life and works of Charles Darwin. I have read quite a number of books, both about and by Darwin, and this, without a doubt is the best of the biograhies as yet written to date. If covers Darwin from the beginning, up through the voyage of the Beagle, and a bit beyond. Extremely detailed and very well researched, the books reads as smoothly as any novel, yet it is truely a scholarly work. It is one of the most detailed works of this sort I have read. I read a review recently in a trade publication that stated you will go into absolute information overload with this one. That is not far from the truth. As to detailed research, the closest I can think of, off the top of my head, is Dallek's work on LBJ...even that does not come all that close. Ms. Brown's style is wonderful, her thoughts well laid out. The belief in evolution is neither here nor there when reading this work. While it does indeed deal with his life work, i.e. "The Orgin of Species," it gives us more insight to the man, rather than the theory. Whether or not you are an evolutionist or creationist is moot. Darwin's impact on our society and the way we view the world was changed with this man and we should know him and the society that created him. To understand our current history, an understanding of this man and his times is absolutely necessary. I collect books about Charles Darwin, and this one now sets at the head of my "Darwin Shelf." I highly recommend it and highly recommend you add it to your collection.
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