Customer Reviews


32 Reviews
5 star:
 (28)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Biography
Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution that he advanced have become a major boon to the publishing trade. The sheer bulk of material in print related to Darwin and evolution is astonishing. With the thousands of books related to this subject out there, it is a daunting task for the interested reader to know where to start. I would suggest that this book is the ideal...
Published on October 15, 2000 by Bradley P. Rich

versus
5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was it a life? A Gentleman's Biography
While reading evolution books ranging from popular like Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life to specialized like Evolution: The First Four Billion Years and Encyclopedia of Evolution: 2 volume set I felt the need to read Darwin's biography. My first encounter with Darwin was even before a primary school when I was looking at illustrations to his...
Published on July 15, 2010 by Dmitry Vostokov


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Biography, October 15, 2000
By 
Bradley P. Rich (Salt Lake City, UT USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution that he advanced have become a major boon to the publishing trade. The sheer bulk of material in print related to Darwin and evolution is astonishing. With the thousands of books related to this subject out there, it is a daunting task for the interested reader to know where to start. I would suggest that this book is the ideal introduction to learning about Darwin and "Darwinism." The book is first and foremost a superb biography. It gives the reader a real sense of who Darwin was and what his time was like. Further, it explains the science of Darwin's era and puts the theory of natural selection into that context. It does a good job of explaining how the political, social, religious, economic and scientific context of nineteenth century Britain contributed to the development of Darwin's theory. In addition, Desmond and Moore show how Darwin's personal suffering contributed both to the development of his thinking as well as to two decades of delay in its publication.
The style is readable and compelling. In short, I recommend it wholeheartedly both to the casual reader with no background in the area and to those with a serious interest in the subject matter.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE BETTER DARWIN BIOGRAPHIES, February 8, 2005
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
I just completed my second reading of this work. I do feel it is one of the better Darwin biographies. It certainly is not in the same league with Janet Browne's two volume work, but if you cannot get Browne, then this one will certainly do. This work is well researched and certainly presents us with a good look at not only Darwin the man, but of his science. I had to agree with another reviewer who made the observation that reading Charles Darwin's work is much easier after reading this work on his life and times. I also enjoyed the insightful look into the Victorian mind...it was an added bonus. Unfortunately, I have noticed that the anti-evolution folks go through these reviews bashing anything said positive about any of the Darwin Biographies. The study of the man, Darwin, is not necessarily an endorsement of his theory. On the other hand, Darwin and his contemporaries did change the way we look at our world and we do owe them a debt for that, and anyone that can produce such a profound work, indeed, needs to be studied. Any one who denies this simply has their head in the sand. Highly recommend this one. Good biography and good history. Well written!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Bio, September 15, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
This is a really first class biography, bringing the full weight of Charles Darwin's "torment" to light. As a devoutly religious man during the oppressively Christian Victorian era, it took uncommon fortitude and intellectual honesty for him to follow the paths down which his researches led him, all the way to the ultimate conclusions which today bear his name.

Much like H.W. Brands's biography of Benjamin Franklin, the authors here do an excellent job of bringing Darwin back to life, both the highs and the lows (including lots of personal tragedy) that shaped his monumental career. Heartbreak played as great a role in his life as discovery.

Compulsively readable without sacrificing detail, all of the major milestones of his life are covered in a personal perspective which gives exactly as much emphasis as events must have had at the time -- even ones which have since reached mythic proportions. This is, as Steven Jay Gould touts on the cover, "Unquestionably, the finest [biography] ever written about Darwin..."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best work I've ever read on Darwin, May 29, 2000
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
Desmond and Moore completely abolish the traditional way of doing historiography: they do away with the Internalist/Externalist dichotomy that either considers scientific knowledge as mere conceptual change, and thus regards historical reconstruction as internal to the theories, or considers science a strict social product, exempt from the theoretical biases. Desmond and Moore include everything that has a causal significance in the life of Darwin as both a scientist and man living in the 19th century. They manage to give the most complete reconstruction ever of biological history's most transcendental event: the development of Darwin's theory of Evolution. And believe me, as a biologist, I've read tons on Darwin. It is so masterfully written, that it is hard to limit myself to the five star rating: I would give it more!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete, Unbiased and Utterly Enjoyable Masterpiece, January 10, 2004
This review is from: Darwin (Hardcover)
Darwin: the life of a tormented evolutionist, the title says it all. Desmond and Moore work around the idea of the tormented evolutionist as a central theme in this magnus opus of Darwins life. The reader is taken on a journey through Darwin as a young lad, collecting shells and minerals, to the debilitated, ailing old man who writes non-stop on many aspects of natural history from selection to a complete and still used encyclopedia on barnacles to orchids and earthworms. But this is not an essay merely about the life and accomplishments of Charles Darwin, it is a story about science and society in the 1800's England. Desmond and Moore create a scene of Darwin getting swept up in the events of Victorian England. They illustrate a man torn by his religious convictions and the interpretations of what all the evidence from his life's research points toward. I relished in getting to know other famous scientists such as Hooker, Wallace, Romanes, Spencer, Tyndall and Huxley, and many others from that time who were among Darwin's followers and critics (i.e. Owen, Agassiz, Duke of Argylle, Mivart, Wilberforce)
A highly enjoyable book for people from all backgrounds and an absolute must read for anyone not so much interested in the complete biography of Darwin's life, but for people interested in the history and philosophy of Victorian England's science.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best biographies I have ever read., October 22, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
Masterful prose describing one of histories most important and enigmatic geniuses. I cannot wait to read Adrian Desmond's biography about Thomas Huxley. May I strongly suggest that anyone who enjoys this biography try reading a copy of Darwin's "The Origin of Species". It requires perseverance and a contemplative mind, but the rewards of understanding this seminal work repay the effort.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography for a brilliant scientist, March 4, 2002
By 
Dixon (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
This is one hell of a riveting biography. I've often read biographies of really interesting people, but the writing is so turgid or lackluster, that I find myself wishing a better writer would tackle this story and do it right. Not so with this one, this is a phenomenal book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but by no means great, March 24, 2001
By 
John Anderson (Bar Harbor, ME USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
Desmond and Moore go beyond some of the "psycho-history" poularizers that seem to hang on to the fringes of evolutionary biology these days, but there is still a whiff of the analyst's couch in too much of this book. The title gives away the bias from the first, so we can't say we weren't warned, but it is odd that Desmond and Moore seem to ignore the enormous amount of evidence (often in his own words) of Darwin the Contented Naturalist, Darwin the Excited Traveller (I strongly encourage anyone really interested in Darwin to go look at Phil Darlington's delightful cartoon of "Chas" Darwin "Hanging Out" at Cambridge in Darlington's wonderful "Evolution for Naturalists") Darwin the Family Man (read Raverat's Period Piece, etc.) The chapters continue in the same vein (Paradise & Punishment, Mental Rioting, Murder, Ugly Facts, etc.) and while they draw heavily on one side of Darwin and darwiniana it is only the one side. For my money Janet Browne's biography is head and shoulders above this -if only she would finish it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional work!, February 10, 2000
By 
L Coffren (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
I chose to read this book because I had never read anything about Charles Darwin other than textbook accounts and biased works by anti-evolutionist authors. This book not only changed my views about evolution, but left me with a profound respect for Mr. Darwin. I am going to continue on with reading Origin of Species! This book is well worth the time it takes to read it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, March 6, 2009
This review is from: Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist (Paperback)
Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. By Adrian Desmond and James Moore. New York: Warner Books, 1992. xxi + 808 pp.

Though a bit dated and perhaps outclassed by Janet Browne's more recent work, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist remains an excellent biography of Charles Darwin's life and times. This collaboration of authors Desmond and Moore clearly shows the strength of their combined scholarship on the subject. Obviously extensively researched, this tome is a captivating narrative of Darwin that both the historian and the layperson can read. Through them, we see Darwin placed properly in the cultural, social, religious and political context of 19th century England. They portray Darwin as the "tormented evolutionist" who is buffeted in the waves of political turmoil, economic recession, religious upheaval, and personal suffering which affect every aspect of his life, including of course his theory of evolution.
The book begins in 1801, eight years before Darwin was born. This choice of starting date indicates the intention of the authors to encompass the entire century and forebears of Darwin, not just the individual. Beginning with Erasmus senior, the authors describe in depth each and every person who touched Darwin's life. His father, siblings, wife and children, and all his colleagues and friends are brought to life in vivid detail. Though normally portrayed as an intensely private, quiet person, these authors have shown just how much these people influence Darwin and shaped his personal and professional life.
Desmond and Moore submerge us into the world of 19th century England, and place Darwin in his proper social context. Darwin, from a respectable Anglican heritage of wealth, had the best education money and influence could buy him. The authors exhaustively examine his educational influences, from the professors he interacted with to the books he read. Meanwhile, all around him, Tories and Whigs struggled for supremacy in government, but he tended to remove himself as far from the political sphere as possible. Yet he could not entirely escape it, and it affected his family and his dealings with colleagues, to whom political affliation was as important an issue as the validity of intellectual theories. The authors examine Darwin's theories as inherently political entities, which inevitably drew Darwin into politics. But it was his supporters Kingsley and Huxley who engaged on the poltical and religious battlefield for him. Darwin preferred to avoid conflict, a stance repeated in his religious views as well.
Many who read this book will no doubt be interested in the portrayal of Darwin's religious beliefs. Desmond and Moore show him clinging to the last bit of his Unitarian religion, but near the end of his life he seemed to have given up on religion entirely. His wife Emma urged him to read the Bible and take strength from it, but he could not answer her. As his illness sapped his life away, she grew ever more desperate that they would not reunite in the afterworld.
Ever since he returned from the Beagle voyage, Darwin was assailed with weakness and constant vomiting. For the whole rest of his life he endured the draining illness, which is illustrated in graphic detail by Desmond and Moore. It touched every aspect of his life, turning him from a vibrant, sociable young man to an invalid who could not travel far or receive visitors regularly. Darwin here is portrayed as a man of indomitable will who persevered in his research and work even though constantly ill. Desmond and Moore show the role of not only physical pain but mental anguish in Darwin's life. Each family member or friend that he lost is detailed, with whatever record exists of Darwin's grief. Especially poignant is the loss of Annie at age 9, a death that haunted him for the rest of his life. One grasps the idea that life in the 19th century, even for a wealthy gentleman like Darwin, was fraught with death, loss and unending, unexplainable illness. For Darwin and his family health was a fleeting, unattainable state of being that framed their entire existence.
The issue of "Darwin's Delay" is brought up by John van Wyhe in his article ""Mind the gap: Did Darwin avoid publishing his theory for many years?" in Notes & Records of the Royal Society, 61. He accuses Desmond and Moore of perpetuating the historical myth that Darwin delayed publishing the Origin for twenty years because of fear of criticism. The idea of a "delay" originated in the 1970s among historians, and even appeared in a few BBC documentaries. It does appear in The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist but I believe not as strongly as van Wyhe suggests. Darwin is in fact portrayed as being fearful of his friends' reaction should he tell them of his belief in transmutation, when no evidence supports this, according to van Whye. So, perhaps Desmond and Moore fell into the historical myth of Darwin's supposed "fear" of his colleague's reaction. However, as for the presumed delay in publication, Desmond and Moore do show that Darwin had taken up other projects as opportunities presented themselves. There was no conscious thought of dropping the Origin purposefully because of fear or uneasiness. Darwin originally intended his work on barnacles to supplement his theory of natural selection. That it took him longer than he anticipated was no surprise: all his projects did, due to his illness.
This begs the question: How much in this biography is the conjecture on the part of the authors, and how much of it is Darwin? There is no doubt that the authors played a part in its extreme readability and engaging narrative by using their judgment to piece together parts of letters, manuscripts and other sources. Yet it is easy to get caught up in the story and accept everything the authors say as historical fact, when perhaps it is not. As with any book, I encourage the reader to engage the text critically.
This book is an informative, enjoyable read and I highly recommend it to all Darwin enthusiasts and those who wish to know more about Darwin the man and the circumstances which gave birth to evolution.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist
Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist by James F. Moore (Paperback - June 17, 1994)
$39.95 $29.38
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.