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170 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought this version when I could not find my old copy. On trying to find a favorite passage (Darwin's revulsion at a parasitic wasp in Brazil and the inconsistency of such cruelty with any providential design of nature by a good God), I noticed that it was not there. I do not know what else is missing. I find it infuriating that this was not adequately noted on the cover of the book. I always prefer books as the author wrote them, especially when the author is Darwin. This is a lively, beautiful and haunting work that I first read when I was thirteen and have read twice since. Readers deserve the whole thing.
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77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
We all know Charles Darwin as a scholarly bearded old English gentleman, and like Leonardo da Vinci, Darwin has this image defining him for all future generations. Even though most everyone knows Darwin spent five years traveling the oceans on the HMS Beagle, the image of a young dynamic Darwin never takes over. Reading this book will change this.

Darwin sailed on the Beagle, a small three-mast sailing ship, and circumnavigated the globe. Over five years, he visited numerous islands in the Atlantic and Pacific and extensively surveyed the east and west coasts of South America. He hiked up and down mountains, traveled on horseback across the arid Argentinean plains, crossed the lonely Peruvian desert, and trekked the grandiose Chilean Cordilleras. He thought nothing of packing a train of mules for a two-month overland journey across the Andes going from Chile to Argentina and back again. On all his land expeditions he hired local guides, from Gauchos in Argentina to South Pacific islanders in Tahiti. Darwin's accounts of his expeditions are not only interesting adventures, they are also good portraits of the people he met. These include Latin American governors and generals, Argentinean ranchers, very primitive natives on Tierra del Fuego, and so on.

The journal begins with an account of Cape de Verd islands, then most of the book is spent on Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, and we have to wait until Chapter 17 before we get to what all Darwin fans really want to read, namely the account of his visit to the Galapagos. Though short, the account does not disappoint. We read of Darwin's finches, of two allied species of lizards, and of the giant turtles. Darwin also presents his great insight: that geographical isolation contributes to speciation. He came by this insight when it was pointed out to him that nearly identical species were seldom found on the same island. Another insight was that the fauna and flora an island depends more on that of the nearby mainland than on latitude. For example the plants of the Galapagos Islands were similar to those of the American west coast, while those of Cape de Verd, at the same latitude but in the Atlantic, resembled plants found in Africa. Darwin then continues with accounts of Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia, where we read how he thought coral reef islands were formed.

In the last chapter Darwin tells us of his visit to St-Helena and he does in fact mention its most famous resident, Napoleon Bonaparte. Though the French Emperor had already died, his remains had not yet been moved to Les Invalides in Paris. Darwin writes of the grave only in passing and is explicitly careful not too make too much of it. Apparently visitors in those days had a habit of overdoing their descriptions of Napoleon's rather simple headstone.

Travel notes like these and the descriptions of the people he met, were for me the most charming aspect of the book. The portraits Darwin paints are invariably sympathetic to human nature. Certainly Darwin was a man of his times and valued civilization very highly, but he was no racist and believed that all men could find happiness and enlightenment, and that all men had a right to be free. He despised slavery, and wrote eloquent passages attacking the prevalent institution. From this journal, we come to know a dynamic, adventurous young man, and a thoughtful liberal one who would only later shake our view of our place in the world.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
We all know Charles Darwin as a scholarly bearded old English gentleman, and like Leonardo da Vinci, Darwin has this image defining him for all future generations. Even though most everyone knows Darwin spent five years traveling the oceans on the HMS Beagle, the image of a young dynamic Darwin never takes over. Reading this book will change this.

Darwin sailed on the Beagle, a small three-mast sailing ship, and circumnavigated the globe. Over five years, he visited numerous islands in the Atlantic and Pacific and extensively surveyed the east and west coasts of South America. He hiked up and down mountains, traveled on horseback across the arid Argentinean plains, crossed the lonely Peruvian desert, and trekked the grandiose Chilean Cordilleras. He thought nothing of packing a train of mules for a two-month overland journey across the Andes going from Chile to Argentina and back again. On all his land expeditions he hired local guides, from Gauchos in Argentina to South Pacific islanders in Tahiti. Darwin's accounts of his expeditions are not only interesting adventures, they are also good portraits of the people he met. These include Latin American governors and generals, Argentinean ranchers, very primitive natives on Tierra del Fuego, and so on.

The journal begins with an account of Cape de Verd islands, then most of the book is spent on Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, and we have to wait until Chapter 17 before we get to what all Darwin fans really want to read, namely the account of his visit to the Galapagos. Though short, the account does not disappoint. We read of Darwin's finches, of two allied species of lizards, and of the giant turtles. Darwin also presents his great insight: that geographical isolation contributes to speciation. He came by this insight when it was pointed out to him that nearly identical species were seldom found on the same island. Another insight was that the fauna and flora an island depends more on that of the nearby mainland than on latitude. For example the plants of the Galapagos Islands were similar to those of the American west coast, while those of Cape de Verd, at the same latitude but in the Atlantic, resembled plants found in Africa. Darwin then continues with accounts of Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia, where we read how he thought coral reef islands were formed.

In the last chapter Darwin tells us of his visit to St-Helena and he does in fact mention its most famous resident, Napoleon Bonaparte. Though the French Emperor had already died, his remains had not yet been moved to Les Invalides in Paris. Darwin writes of the grave only in passing and is explicitly careful not too make too much of it. Apparently visitors in those days had a habit of overdoing their descriptions of Napoleon's rather simple headstone.

Travel notes like these and the descriptions of the people he met, were for me the most charming aspect of the book. The portraits Darwin paints are invariably sympathetic to human nature. Certainly Darwin was a man of his times and valued civilization very highly, but he was no racist and believed that all men could find happiness and enlightenment, and that all men had a right to be free. He despised slavery, and wrote eloquent passages attacking the prevalent institution. From this journal, we come to know a dynamic, adventurous young man, and a thoughtful liberal one who would only later shake our view of our place in the world.
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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
The 1 star is for Penguin, because the cover does not warn you that the content has been sharply abridged. Darwin's thinking and writing are wonderful -- but grossly and unfairly cut to ribbons.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely interesting book; well worth reading. However I would not recommend getting the edition published by Wordsworth (ISBN 185364768). It was not proof-read very carefully, and contains a lot of typographical errors.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is not a review, but a warning. Browsing for copies of Darwin's journal of his voyage on the Beagle, I read the reviews below. I would point out that McEvilly says that this book is unabridged; Cliffe says it is abridged. The Penguin USA web site doesn't say which it is, but the Penguin UK site says that the text of this edition has been shortened. So if you're looking for the full text, this doesn't appear to be it.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
From 1831 to 1836 Charles Darwin, then a young man in his twenties, was the official naturalist on the Royal Navy ship HMS Beagle. The Beagle spent five years completing a survey of the coasts of South America and making a series of longitude measurements around the world. This proved to be one of the most important scientific voyages of the 19th century, for it was on this voyage that Darwin made the observations that lead, twenty years later, to his formulating the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. This book is Darwin's account of his observations on this voyage. Darwin was a master of detailed observation, and he describes the things he observed -- the plants, animals, geology, and people -- in loving detail. His accounts are always lively and full of interest. Darwin was also a master of inductive reasoning, and there are several superb examples of this in this book. Perhaps the finest is Darwin's induction of the cause of the formation of the coral atolls that dot the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean (his theory was proved correct in the 20th century). Indeed, much of the value of this book for the modern reader lies in the many examples it contains of scientific, inductive thought; a powerful method of reasoning that is as neglected today as it was in Darwin's time.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Forget the image of the grim, ancient, grey-bearded savant. By the time those pictures were taken Darwin was long past his energetic prime. BEAGLE catches him literally starting out on his life-long voyage of discovery at a time when he was still extremely physically active and just beginning to come to grips with the seriousness of his interest in Natural History. Later in life he said that the VOYAGE was his personal favorite of all his writings, and one can see why. Darwin set off young, energetic, but frankly naieve & a little foolish (his father ahd written to him at Cambridge saying that he feared that he would never amount to much, and apart from his work with Henslow, much of his college career seems to have been devoted to what we would now call "partying hearty") He returned a seasoned naturalist and explorer, with the germ of his Great Idea firmly implanted. While in many ways VOYAGE is describing a vanished world, Darwin's keen eye for detail renders each landscape with such clarity that one feels that one is really along for the trip -and, thank goodness, some of the places he went to are still there for us to go & wonder at. There is no Big Theory here, just an enormous sense of wonder and excitement, with little of the periodic homesickness that shows up in the letters that he was writing during the voyage. Perhaps most intriguing is the remarkably SHORT section on the Galapagos -I remember thinking the first time that I read the VOYAGE "Wait, but wasn't the Galapagos THE Big Deal?" No, not to read it here in the original. One gets the sense that many of Darwins fundamental beliefs were already in gestation long before he left the coast of South America & by the time he gets to the Galapagos, he is increasingly anxious to be home & working it all out. Make sure that you get a COMPLETE version of the Voyage, there are many editions (including abbridgements) out there.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
From 1831 to 1836 Charles Darwin, then a young man in his twenties, was the official naturalist on the Royal Navy ship HMS Beagle. The Beagle spent five years completing a survey of the coasts of South America and making a series of longitude measurements around the world. This proved to be one of the most important scientific voyages of the 19th century, for it was on this voyage that Darwin made the observations that lead, twenty years later, to his formulating the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. This book is Darwin's account of his observations on this voyage. Darwin was a master of detailed observation, and he describes the things he observed -- the plants, animals, geology, and people -- in loving detail. His accounts are always lively and full of interest. Darwin was also a master of inductive reasoning, and there are several superb examples of this in this book. Perhaps the finest is Darwin's induction of the cause of the formation of the coral atolls that dot the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean (his theory was proved correct in the 20th century). Indeed, much of the value of this book for the modern reader lies in the many examples it contains of scientific, inductive thought; a powerful method of reasoning that is as neglected today as it was in Darwin's time.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 9, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I learned a lot about Darwin in this book that I simply didn't know beforehand. The most important is what an exceptional writer he was. If he had never published his Origin of Species and become famous by it, this book would still be a classic, if not of science, than certainly of literature. His prose, while necessarily more pedestrian, reminds me more than anything of the prose of another famous naturalist, Thoreau (who actually quotes the "Naturalist Darwin" in Walden from this book regarding the natives of Tierra Del Fuego).

The "scientific detail" cited by another reviewer did not bog down the prose at all, a remarkable feat....a talent also found in Thoreau. The famed passage on The Galapagos was indeed interesting. But the most scientifically intriguing passages, I found, had to do with barrier reefs and atolls and how they come to be...I almost said "evolve"....But perhaps that would be premature for this book. In any event, I've never read a scientific account so riveting and fascinating as Darwin's on this subject given herein.

But, as I say, I learned quite a bit about Darwin as a young man, ready for adventure, risks, and brimming with curiosity. He is almost as much a poet as scientist in some passages, quoting Shelley at one point, and he fortifies his narrative with a poignancy absent in most scientific accounts. This stylistic flavour is evident in many passages, but I'll just proffer one from the end of the narrative:

"In my walk I stopped again and again to gaze upon these beauties, and endevoured to fix in my mind and for ever, an impression which at the time I knew sooner or later must fail. The form of the orange-tree, the cocoa-nut, the palm, the mango, the tree-fern, the banana, will remain clear and separate; but the thousand beauties which unite these into one perfect scene must fade away: yet they will leave, like a tale heard in childhood, a picture full of indistinct, but most beautiful figures." (P.444, in my edition)

Whether as poetic or scientific, this work is virtuosic and unsurpassed in its seamless melding of the two. I'll leave the reader to decide which s/he enjoys the most.
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