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The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882 Paperback – September 17, 1993
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About the Author
Naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is the father of evolution. His groundbreaking The Origin of Species argued that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. As much as anyone in the modern era, Darwin has changed the course of human thought.
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Top Customer Reviews
The most important thing to know about this edition of the autobiography of Charles Darwin is that it is the edition that contains the entire autobiography. Most editions of the autobiography, especially those edited by his son Francis Darwin, were bowdlerized by his family, removing sections that could be seen as far too controversial for his day, especially on the issue of religion. The version by Penguin, 128 pages, which Amazon identifies as a newer edition of this volume, may be the unedited version, but I cannot tell the exact differences, since I do not own that one. I did search it for certain passages that are normally not present in the autobiographies, and they seem to be present in the Penguin edition, but at about 100 pages shorter than the Norton edition, at least some extras are missing.
This edition, edited by his granddaughter Nora Barlow, first made available the complete autobiography in 1959, a full century after the publication of his seminal work, "On the Origin of Species."
Other items in the Norton edition: letters between Charles and other family members, namely his wife, Emma; notes jotted down by Darwin on various things, some quite humorous, such as his evaluation of the pros and cons of getting married; the controversy between Darwin and Samuel Butler on the nature of evolution.
If one wants to read the autobiography, the Norton edition is the definitive edition, with the Penguin edition being a possible alternative. If one wants instead to read an authoritative scholarly biography of his life, select the two volume edition published through Princeton University Press by the Darwin scholar and historian of science, Janet Browne of Harvard. Those may be found here: Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 1 - Voyaging and Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 2 - The Power of Place. All other Darwin biographies are inferior.
I did not get what I had ordered, which was based on the look inside. Deceptive indeed.
Second, he is a scrupulously honest thinker. He abandons his early Christianity (although he admits that he was never very fervent) because his understanding of natural selection rules out the possibility of a Paleyesque divine design in nature, and he rejects the idea of eternal damnation because it seems to him hideously unjust. (The bulk of his religious reflections are found in pp. 85-96.) He is devoted to the empirical method, carefully collecting and collating years and years worth of data before drawing conclusions from them. He especially notes, he tells us, data that seem to run contrary to his hypotheses, because he knows how easy it is to "forget" such inconvenient facts. And he takes great delight in his scientific work. Curious that Darwin laments on at least two occasions that he's lost his youthful taste for poetry, art, and music. His love of the natural world surely is as artistic as scientific.
I highly recommend this autobiography to all persons interested in the on-going fracas over evolution. It goes a long way to revealing the real man too often demonized by polemicists.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Darwin was an amazing scholar and academic thinker and this book seemed to help me understand the man's life...Read more