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Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History's Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough Paperback – March 8, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Stott is skillful with many of the thematic connections here and her narration is exciting, gripping and addictively readable.” (Scarlett Thomas - Independent on Sunday)
“Perfect reading for your next beach holiday; you'll never look at a barnacle, or at Darwin, the same way again.” (James A. Secord, author of Victorian Sensation)
“A spellbinding story, intricate and beautifully told.” (James Moore, co-author of Darwin)
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Top Customer Reviews
After his return from the _Beagle_ voyage (and his first collection of a barnacle specimen), besides writing up his journals and discoveries from his voyage, Darwin formed his first ideas about the origin of species and evolution. He wrote up his ideas, but refrained from publishing; he not only knew how controversial evolution would be, but he realized he needed to issue these ideas after having more basic biological knowledge. So for eight years, from 1846 until 1854, Darwin worked on barnacles. He had to dissect hundreds of them under the microscope. He had to work with both the adult forms and the free-swimming larval forms. He corrected misconceptions and made startling discoveries about their sex lives.Read more ›
Following Dava Sobel's 'Longitude,' the past few years have provided us with a flood of books on the theme of "the lone man of genius and his scientific discovery that changed the world." With rare exceptions, however, many of these have been less than profound or failed to make the case for the true relevance of their topic. Stott's 'Darwin and the Barnacle,' however, is a fine exception, and a book of a wholly different order. She forgoes the typical formula (misunderstood scientific hero fights haughty, blinkered scientific establishment to prove out his discovery that is destined to change the world). Instead, Stott's story provides a balance between exceptional narrative (the drama of scientific discoveries that truly do change the world, after all, makes great subjects for narrative), and solid, informed research.
Best of all, Stott avoids the "lone scientific genius" syndrome, by demonstrating that Darwin, as he worked on his barnacles, became the center of a world-wide scientific network that took advantage of nineteenth-century social and technological advances (a postal system, railways), institutional developments (burgeoning scientific societies, and scientific professionalization), and European imperialism (colonized outposts, and voyages of scientific discovery).
History of science is too often either popular (though shallow) drama, or thorough (though impenetrable) scholarship. `Darwin and the Barnacle' is the best of both worlds, with the pitfalls of neither. Substantial and entertaining, well written and well researched.
The sensitivity of the author helped develop in me an understanding of and interest in Charles Darwin as a person. I was moved by learning more about the man and how he lived his life; by the grief he experienced as his beloved daughter died, how his wife and he read to one another, about his ill health, his day to day activities and about his dedication if not dogged determination of his scientific observations.
In reading this book I came to understand how much time and energy Darwin dedicated in undertaking his labourious investigations into barnacles, how this hard work paved the way for honing his monumental work on the `Origin of the Species'. Yet for me it is not a defence of evolution, but rather its Darwin who is placed under the microscope. It was literally as if Stott breathed life back into Darwin - which suddenly took on more importance than the revolutionary achievements that he is so well regarded for. `Darwin and the Barnacle' is a great book I only wish I had read this book when I was a geological student.
This book is worth reading and does give us some of the details left out of other books on Darwin, but the author has not answered the questions about Darwin's barnacles I would have liked to have had answered.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the second book I have read by Rebecca Stott. Her work is very well done. I would recommend her highly.Published 11 days ago by kevin w. wright
As another reviewer said, I really wanted to like this book. And for the most part, I did. I'm not a scientist but learning what went into the development of Darwin's theory was... Read morePublished on February 20, 2013 by M. R. Bischoff
Seeing Darwin as a part of the cultural milieu makes him much more than the man with the theory. His relationships with Grant and reaction to Chambers' publication provide a sense... Read morePublished on January 5, 2013 by David E. Clapp
Darwin's belief in species development through progressive changes over time did not spring full-blown in a single stroke. Read morePublished on December 30, 2011 by wiredweird
I have already read at least 15 books on Darwin and his life. I was ready for a study of the creatures that took up 8 years of his work and purchased this book thinking it would... Read morePublished on November 22, 2011 by Neal A. Wellons