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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate…
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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the…

by David Quammen

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Twenty-one years passed between Charles Darwin's epiphany that "natural selection" formed the basis of evolution and the scientist's publication of On the Origin of Species. Why did Darwin delay, and what happened during the course of those two decades? The human drama and scientific basis of these years constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that elucidates the character of a cautious naturalist who initiated an intellectual revolution. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
"[...]nobody's perfect. Charles Darwin certainly wasn't. He had an appendix, he had nipples, none of which served any useful purpose, and he occasionally made mistakes, even in The Origin of Species."

It is really hard for me to find nonfiction books that I end up liking. They are always either too dry or too lacking in substance and pandering to a current popular interest. However, this book is pretty great. It brings Darwin out in the open as a full human being and reveals the decades of work, dedication to precision, and objectiveness that went into the germ of evolutionary theory.

Darwin didn't set out on the Beagle to start a revolution in science that led to its complete divergence from religion. He was just a lad from a wealthy family on a natural history expedition. But the carcasses and their locations couldn't lie. With some of the eventual evidence collected, he formed a hypothesis and worked on perfecting it for decades before publishing. Only the danger of having his idea owned by someone else first led him to stop hoarding and digesting evidence and get down to the writing. During all of the gestation time he sired a family, coped with a mysterious illness by bizarre water treatments, and lost his faith in God.

This book made me want to read other books by Quammen because he writes with clarity and literary backbone missing from some other nonfiction writers. ( )
  leonardbast | Jul 8, 2013 |
The tone of this book is a little breezy but the descriptions of the evolution of Darwin's thinking and life after "The Origin" are fascinating. It's sad that some of the characters, like Wallace and Hooker, seem to disappear at the end of the book. The discussion of evolutionary theories presented as alternatives to natural selection in the years following the publication of the book is intriguing. ( )
  themulhern | Apr 12, 2013 |
Quammen has written one of the most personable of biographies. Through the author's extensive research, Darwin's personality is described in a well-written, easy-going style. This book was a pleasure. ( )
  Sandydog1 | May 26, 2011 |
Oh, no, not another Darwin biography! Yes, it is, but well written and, like many other biographies, seeks to find its own little hook to tell a slightly different story. This one explores the arrangment between Darwin and Wallace, forged by the friends of Darwin, that allowed joint publication of theory. The book gives some interesting insight into the characters of both men, although there is a great deal that must remain speculation, by virtue of the fact that we can never be sure what others are really thinking. Definitely worth the time to read. ( )
  Devil_llama | May 10, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 039332995X, Paperback)

"Quammen brilliantly and powerfully re-creates the 19th century naturalist's intellectual and spiritual journey."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

Twenty-one years passed between Charles Darwin's epiphany that "natural selection" formed the basis of evolution and the scientist's publication of On the Origin of Species. Why did Darwin delay, and what happened during the course of those two decades? The human drama and scientific basis of these years constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that elucidates the character of a cautious naturalist who initiated an intellectual revolution.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:00 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Traces the twenty-one-year period between Charles Darwin's original idea about natural selection and the publication of "On the Origin of Species," in an account that offers insight into his experiences as a cautious naturalist.

» see all 2 descriptions

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W.W. Norton

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