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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (Great Discoveries) Reprint Edition, Kindle Edition
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|Length: 242 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
Quammen reveals Darwin's story as sad and heroic by turns. -- Adrian Desmond, New York Times Book Review
With clarity, brevity, and quick, colorful anecdotes, [Quammen] sketches a compelling story. -- Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- File size : 710 KB
- Publication date : July 17, 2007
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (July 17, 2007)
- ASIN : B0028OMVEE
- Print length : 242 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #636,249 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The author insists that true discovery is an incremental process - one thought leads to another and then to another, etc. Darwin (and others) had glimpses of the truth but it was decades before he felt the evidence was solid enough to publish - and even that was due to a race against a rival. The author points out that the term "Darwinist" is misleading. He did not start a religion, found a movement or train a bevy of disciples Perhaps the biggest surprise was that despite its "hit status", ORIGINS did not quickly change minds. Acceptance of the theory came years later after other sources had not only verified but built upon his work.
I must add that the writing was beautiful, literary and almost poetic at times. The oft-stated complaints of religious prejudice is just only if one accepts that Creationism is valid. Darwin's own path toward unbelief was documented as was the long, loving marriage to his pious wife. The book succeeds because it balances science, history and biography. My Grade - A-
In Victorian England, these were not ideas to discuss in polite company, despite the fairly recent period of the Enlightenment - hence a 20-year procrastination before he published his terrible thoughts. Quammen rhetorically asks why Darwin had to be threatened with being scooped before he finally published. Was he afraid of offending his wife, afraid of estranging himself from pious former teachers and friends, afraid he would be thrown in jail...did he want more evidence so as to make his theory more airtight, was he too busy with other chores, and several other suggestions - and to all the suggested questions, Quammen opines, "The answers to each of these questions, I think, is yes."
All the pertinent data about the making of "Origin of the Species" is here:
1. Timeline of formation and development of the theory.
2. Marriage to his beloved Emma and how she supported his work, despite her theological opposition.
3. Portrait of his meticulous methods of observation, experimentation, thinking, and recording.
4. The Alfred Wallace bombshell and how Darwin's friends worked out a shared credit solution.
5. The writing and publishing of "Origin of the Species," the five revisions, and a brilliant chapter by chapter synopsis by Quammen.
6. The shakey reception of his book - for 50 years - and eventual vindication.
There are some books on Darwin more scholarly and longer, but you won't find one more likely to hold the attention of the general interest reader - complete with an outstanding explanation of his theory of evolution by natural selection. Hopefully high school science teachers will discover this book and add it to their student reading lists. The scientific literacy of our children (and our general population) could stand a little enhancement.
In about 250 pages, Quammen does a fine job of distilling Darwin's quietly productive life, both personal and scientific. Many things must be hastily skimmed of course. When this occurs, Quammen says it specifically, such as on pp. 228-230 where he gives a 30,000-foot view of developments in evolutionary theory since Darwin, including the "modern synthesis." He pointedly shows you the best places to look for the details by including the important titles by the principals for further reading.
One thing I particulary like about this book is that it brings Darwin the man to life. It highlights his family life, friendships, scientific relationships and how they influence him. It also presents Darwin as the very humane man that he was; and shows his unflinching pursuit of facts, in spite of consequences (while still trying very hard not to offend anyone.)
My only negatives would be where the occasional glib, too-conversational quip gets past the editor. These occasional lapses show something of the author's history of writing for magazines, including many years with Outside. That said, these were rare and only detracted momentarily.
This is an excellent place to start with Darwin. Also highly recommended: Everyman's Library edition of On the Origin of Species and The Voyage of the Beagle:
The Origin of Species and the Voyage of the Beagle