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The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex Paperback – August 1, 1981

3.8 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[This work] is second only in importance to the Origin of Species . . . among Darwin's works and the book in which he uses the word evolution for the first time."--Natural History

About the Author

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist and author best-known for his revolutionary theories on the origin of species, human evolution, and natural selection. A life-long interest in the natural world led Darwin to neglect his medical studies and instead embark on a five-year scientific voyage on the HMS Beagle, where he established his reputation as a geologist and gathered much of the evidence that fuelled his later theories.A prolific writer, Darwin s most famous published works include The Voyage of the Beagle, On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, and The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Darwin died in 1882, and in recognition of his contributions to science, is buried in Westminster Abbey along with John Herschel and Isaac Newton.

John Tyler Bonner is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. His books include "The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds" and "Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales" (both Princeton).

May is Professor of Biology, Princeton University.

May is Professor of Biology, Princeton University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691023697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691023694
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
While I would never presume - as some reviewers might - to misstate what is said in this classic volume and then presume to suggest that "now you don't need to read the book," I will say that this is an excellent edition of a classic work. All who have any interest in the history of Darwinian evolution and particularly the historical views of the evolution of man will find this fascinating reading, particularly if the context can be juxtaposed with what has been discovered since Darwin's time. Of course, times have changed, our hopefully less euro-centric views have been altered and there has been considerable progress through the generations since the original publication by Darwin, and that makes the progress of human knowledge all the more fascinating, as well as the insight Darwin obviously possessed in his day. This one's a "must-read" for anyone interested in the history of science.
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Format: Paperback
A truly outstanding read!

I've kept The Descent of Man on my book shelf for over 30 years, unread. I was always too busy to justify the time required to do it justice. Now that I'm writing a dissertation in the History and Philosophy of Science I had the excuse I always lacked for tackling this monumental work. I'm glad I waited.

Years as a practicing biologist and teacher have taught me the value of perspective. This is not a book that will teach you the details of human evolution. Read something recent in biological anthropology if that is what you are after. If you struggle with the convoluted sentence structure and wordiness of Victorian prose, this is certainly not the book for you. Try Harry Potter or Curious George instead.

I always enjoy reading the negative reviews of books written on controversial topics just to see how many people actually review the subject matter rather than the book. I find it hysterical that 6 of the 7 negative reviews listed here were written by two fundamentalists and the seventh one was so tongue-in-cheek I'd give his review 5-starts just for fun. I found all but one of these negative reviews very predictable, and irrelevant.

The Descent needs to be read by anyone interested in what Darwin thought and dared to publically declare. It should not, however, be read outside the context of his letters, and the social milieu in which he lived. It is most certainly anchored in a different age yet bridges that age to our own. Evolution is the cornerstone of all modern biology. Darwin's astonishing synthesis and daring predictions continue to be tested, refined, and corroborated. Seeing "only in a glass darkly," he nonetheless illuminated so much that is correct in human evolutionary history.
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Format: Paperback
This book takes off where "Origin of the Species" leaves off. In Origin, Darwin does not present his hypotheses on the origin of man, but in this book he states categorically that the human race is descended from earlier species of apes, which were descended from much more primitive life forms. The book is the work of a naturalist, and it is surprising how perceptive Darwin was, considering that this book was written in 1871. It faced a storm of rejection and tremendous furor. The book caused a storm of controversy throughout the entire world. Darwin sets out his facts as dispassionately as possible, but that did not stop many nations from banning the work. Darwin also clearly states in this important work that man is continuing to evolve. In this book Darwin states that the two main forms of selection that helped to shape the animals and humans the most through time are the theories of natural selection and sexual selection, and he explains the difference between these two often throughout the book. Even though the book is actually quite readable, I found it not an easy book to read. Even now these theories seem too much to be believed in some spots, but I do not argue at all with Darwin's theory. It is in fact the only way that the human race could have evolved. Definitely a must-read for anyone interested in "ground-breaking" literature.
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Format: Paperback
How is it possible that anyone could be as ignorant as Rondeltap and give this great classic less than 5 stars? Given that it was written in the middle of the 19th Century, it more than meets the highest scientific standards of its time. Furthermore, except perhaps for Darwin's own Origin, it is arguably one of the most important works of its era. When we find that the writings of Marx, Kant and many other giants of that Century can no longer instruct us, we shall find this one still penetratingly relevant.
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Format: Paperback
A beautiful, historical account of a great naturalist's work. It is important to keep in mind that the book was written 129 years ago, though, since the use of the language would not be considered "politically correct" nowadays.
Darwin was someone "who viewed life on earth in terms of an evolutionary framework grounded in science and reason" (taken from the Introduction by H. James Birx). It is difficult to believe that an educated person would misinterpret his ideas as being sexist or racist. Only the ignorant (or a creationist in disguise) would attempt to discredit the work of one of the greatest minds of all times by giving it the wrong label. Reading Daniel C. Dennett's "Darwin Dangerous Idea" (highly recommended) might help to put it in the right context.
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