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Charles Darwin: The Man and his Influence (Cambridge Science Biographies)

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521566681
ISBN-10: 0521566681
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Peter Bowler has fulfilled the obligation to explain the significance of Darwin's work to a more general audience, seizing the opportunity to transmit the conclusions of recent scholarship." British Journal for the History of Science

"...a comprehensive survey of Darwin in and out of his own time and a sound introduction to recent scholarship." Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

Combining biography and cultural history, this study of the controversial Darwin's life and influence shows how his contemporaries were unable to appreciate precisely those aspects of his thinking considered scientifically important today.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Science Biographies
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (April 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521566681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521566681
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Charles Darwin obviously played a major role in the development of modern scientific thought and has become a multi-faceted mythical figure in terms of modern culture, competing with Christopher Columbus in the minds of many for the title of Dead White European Male who most contributed to the decline of Western Civilization in general and the American continent in particular. In "Charles Darwin: The Man and His Influence," Peter J. Bowler, who has written several books on the history of evolutionary theory including "Theories of Human Evolution" and "The Victorians and the Past," makes it clear that Darwin was not the first person to publish evolutionary ideas (not even in his own family) and emphasizes that his theory of natural selection was not generally accepted by his contemporaries. The publication of "The Origin of Species" not only stirred controversy and debate among both the scientific community and the general public, but it also reinforced the Victorian concept of progress. When Darwin died in 1882 and was buried in Westminster Abbey as a national hero of scientific discovery Victorian culture had undergone a major transformation.
Bowler's look at Darwin's life and influence tries to explain how his contemporaries were unable to appreciate those aspects of this theories that are the ones we consider most important today. Ultimately, Darwin is seen as not only a product of his time but a person who transcended it by creating an idea that is still being explored by 21st-century scientists and intellectuals with beliefs and values very different from his own.
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Format: Paperback
In his biography of Charles Darwin, Peter Bowler dispels many of the misconceptions surrounding Darwin's immediate influence on the scientific world. Bowler argues that Darwin's theory did not spark a scientific revolution which caused a majority of scientists to abandon their former views on natural history. Bowler explains that Darwin was not the first naturalist to advance a theory of evolution. Most importantly, Bowler reveals that Darwin's theory was not accepted blindly by the scientific community. In fact, many of Darwin's most faithful supporters found scientific weaknesses in his theory. As Bowler states, "Darwin's greatest achievement was to force the majority of his contemporaries to reconsider their attitudes towards the basic idea of evolution" (p. 128).

Bowler's book was the first biography I have read of Darwin, and I found it very enjoyable. It is one of the college books that I have kept. I definitely recommend it to any reader interested in Darwin's work and influence.
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Format: Paperback
While you may not come away from this book feeling you would've called him Charlie, you will have derived a more than nodding acquaintance with an exceptional person. In the beginning -of the book- there seems to be an overemphasis on theological & philosophical issues but that is a clever construction that skillfully leads you to a profound grasp of Darwin's iconoclastic interpretations of mundane phenomena from which his theories grew. In the end, you regret even more never having met the man.
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Peter Bowler presents a synopsis of Charles Darwin's contributions to science, history, and culture. This book tries to provide a quick summary of the important periods in Darwin's life, touching briefly on each significant aspect.
Much of the book is written in a somewhat technical way and is a bit too wordy. I had a difficult time maintaining my interest while I was reading some of the chapters. Certain areas deserved more coverage, like the reaction when Darwin went public with his theories.
On the positive side, this book does give some good insight on Darwin's relationships with the other prominent scientists of his time and there are some moments where the slowness of the book becomes more interesting, like the section that covers Darwin's voyage of discovery aboard the Beagle. Overall, however, Bowler does not really present anything new or profound that we haven't heard before.
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