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What about Darwin?: All Species of Opinion from Scientists, Sages, Friends, and Enemies Who Met, Read, and Discussed the Naturalist Who Changed the World Paperback – May 25, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

An invaluable source book on the reactions of important thinkers to Darwin's ideas and to the man himself. In addition, [Glick] has created an entertaining volume that lends itself to browsing and to sparking unlikely connections.

(Choice)

Wonderful nuggets of information can be gleaned from What about Darwin?, a splendid compilation of opinions of the great (and not so great) who read Darwin's works. This volume is terrific fun. Like Tennyson, get two copies; one for yourself and one to put on the side table in the guest bedroom.

(Michael Ruse Quarterly Review of Biology)

What about Darwin? is a simply delightful book to browse through.

(Glenn Branch Reports of the National Center for Science Education)

About the Author

Thomas F. Glick is a professor of history at Boston University and has written widely on Darwin. Among his many books are Negotiating Darwin: The Vatican Confronts Evolution, 1877–1902, also published by Johns Hopkins; The Reception of Darwinism in the Iberian World; and The Comparative Reception of Darwinism.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080189462X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801894626
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,550,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What I hoped this book would be is a sort of "Bartlett's Darwin Quotations," containing both friendly and hostile quotes about the man and his theory. As such, the book would be a useful compendium for writers looking for a piquant quote to make their point. Unfortunately, my hope for this book is unrealized.

"What about Darwin?" is indeed a book of quotes about Darwin by friendly and hostile sources, but its usefulness lies elsewhere. If you are a historian looking into the reception-history of Darwin's ideas, as well as primary sources describing the man, this is the first book you need to read. Glick organizes the quotes by last name and puts an asterix next to the names of people quoted elsewhere in the text. This allows the reader to uncover the social networks in 19th-century England and North America that helped disseminate Darwin's ideas, and critiques of those ideas.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, many of the quotes have little usefulness beyond that limited purpose. Take, for example, the entry on P.T. Barnum. Barnum, described as an "American Circus Impressario," was eminently quotable. Glick doesn't quote Barnum on Darwin, however. He quotes George Templeton Strong and an advertisement about Barnum's "What is IT?" exhibit, as well as the April 18, 1873, issue of the "Brooklyn Eagle" on Barnum's contribution to natural history. As illustration of reception-history, these quotes work well to show how Darwin's ideas were transmitted to and perceived by popular culture. But what else is a writer to make of Strong's quote: "Stopped at Barnum's on my way downtown to see the much advertised non-descript, the 'What-is-it.' [...] The creature's [...] anatomical details are fearfully simian, and he's a great fact for Darwin"?
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a collection of opinions expressed by key figures in the history about Darwin's theory of evolution, which reflects on how his theory touched their minds and hearts. Darwin influenced a very wide range of people from all fields. Examples include; Pope Pius IX, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Mahatma Gandhi, President Abraham Lincoln, President Theodore Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, Lenin, Stalin, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, Charles Dickens, and many others. Many were Darwin's enemies, some ridiculed his theory, and many became evolutionists. The Wilberforce - Huxley debate at Oxford in July 1860 was a turning point in the acceptance of Darwinism in England. Most of the elite had been won over in first few months of his publication, "On the origin of species."

A summary of some of the comments of his admirers and his critics are as follows: I very much like physicist Ernst Mach's criticism of Darwin in which he observes that if preservation of species had been more important than adaptation, struggle for survival, and evolution; then species would move in a vicious circle like "perpetual motion" in physics. Albert Einstein provides a cautionary note in his opinion that human beings should not confuse the struggle for survival as a justification to dominate another human being for economic reasons. Einstein praises the depth of Darwin's investigation into the natural history of life. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche presents a notoriously anti-English, and highly critical of Darwin's theory, and uses the word "mediocre spirit" and "mediocre Englishman" few times in his criticism.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As well-researched, carefully thought out, and jam packed as this book is, I thought I would like it a lot more, or at least, I thought I would read through the whole thing. (Disclaimer: I did not.) But, I feel that this book would really have been a lot more interesting, or at least readable, had it been organized in a different fashion. Unfortunately, Mr. Glick has gone to all the trouble of finding a bunch of funny, intriguing, thought-provoking, debate-inducing comments concerning Darwin and his theories, then simply put them in alphabetical order of the people who made the various pronouncements. This makes the book almost unreadable, despite the thorough cross-referencing intended for the reader who wishes to follow a specific path. (I tried it; it makes for tedious, cumbersome reading.) I would have preferred to see the comments arranged in chapters based around specific themes or types of comments. That would have made the book flow. Then, the author could just put an index at the back for the reader who wished to cover things by speaker/writer instead of subject. In fact, even a chronological arrangement would have been more interesting, as that would have allowed the reader to see how the perception and influence of Darwin and his theories changed over the years. As it is, it feels like the author is trying to capitalize on the ongoing debate between creationism and evolution by cobbling this book together and throwing it into the mix. I will say: the subject matter is interesting enough that I'm sure it will serve as a great reference manual or waiting room book in some biology professor's office, but I found it unreadable in any other context.Read more ›
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