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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution

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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"Though much more than a reductionist Darwin for Dummies, Quammen's biography is also a bit less than the 'intimate' portrait it advertises. Yet with clarity, brevity, and quick, colorful anecdotes, he sketches a compelling story. While we may not end up inside the head of one of the most influential thinkers in centuries, we certainly make his acquaintance in a most agreeable way." Gregory M. Lamb, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A fresh look at Darwin's most radical idea, and the mysteriously slow process by which he revealed it.

Evolution, during the early nineteenth century, was an idea in the air. Other thinkers had suggested it, but no one had proposed a cogent explanation for how evolution occurs. Then, in September 1838, a young Englishman named Charles Darwin hit upon the idea that "natural selection" among competing individuals would lead to wondrous adaptations and species diversity. Twenty-one years passed between that epiphany and publication of On the Origin of Species. The human drama and scientific basis of Darwin's twenty-one-year delay constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that elucidates the character of a cautious naturalist who initiated an intellectual revolution.

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin is a book for everyone who has ever wondered about who this man was and what he said. Drawing from Darwin's secret "transmutation" notebooks and his personal letters, David Quammen has sketched a vivid life portrait of the man whose work never ceases to be controversial.

Review:

"Charles Darwin took 20 years to write his theory of natural selection: he produced On the Origin of Species only on learning that he was about to be scooped. Was he a chronic procrastinator? Or was he afraid of the reaction of his peers, who had scorned earlier books on the 'transmutation' of species? A bit of both came into play, but as acclaimed science journalist Quammen (Song of the Dodo) shows, during those two decades, Darwin was busy conducting scientific research that would bolster his observations of the finches and mockingbirds of the Galpagos Islands. He raised pigeons and theorized that domestic varieties could be traced back to a species of wild dove. He floated asparagus seeds in saltwater to explain how plants moved from one continent to another. Quammen commences his portrait with Darwin's homecoming from his five-year trip on the Beagle and then focuses on how he gained enough confidence and evidence to publish a book that would displace humankind from its privileged position as a special creation. This often slyly witty book stands out among the flood of books being published for Darwin's bicentenary. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Evolution isn't hard to understand; you don't need to know about thermodynamics or the unique property of the speed of light. Evidence for it is part of ordinary life, visible in both the general similarity of many organisms and the crucial differences between them. Evolution has an intuitive logicalness that isn't the case with, say, Einstein's ideas.

So why do people have such a hard time... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"A first-rate look at the English naturalist's career after the Beagle....Quammen's portrait of the greatman and his magnum opus is affectionate and well-paced." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Walking readers through the origin and the content of The Origin of Species, Quammen proves an informative, often wry guide to Darwin's life and continuing influence." Booklist

Review:

"[A] concise, tightly focused, engaging, and informative biography that...provides a satisfying portrait of this controversial man and has the potential to reach a larger audience. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Book News Annotation:

He did not found a movement or a religion says Montana-based writer of fiction and natural history Quammen, he never assembled a creed of scientific axioms and ascribed his name to them. He was in fact a reclusive biologist who wrote books on some minor and some major topics, made mistakes, and changed his mind. He admits that most of Darwin's writings relate to the unity of all life as reflected in the processes of evolution, but he had nothing to do with Darwinism and its scientific and religious controversies. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Drawing from Charles Darwin's secret "transmutation" notebooks and his personal letters, Quammen has sketched a vivid life portrait of the man whose work never ceases to be controversial.

About the Author

David Quammen, the author of The Song of the Dodo, is a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award, most recently for a National Geographic story on Darwin. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780393059816
Subtitle:
An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution
Author:
Quammen, David
Author:
Quammen, David
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Subject:
History
Subject:
Naturalists
Subject:
Natural selection
Subject:
Life Sciences - Evolution
Subject:
Scientists - General
Subject:
Darwin, Charles
Subject:
Naturalists - England
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series:
Great Discoveries
Publication Date:
July 2006
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.18x6.74x.99 in. .97 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Biology » Darwin Criticism
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Darwin

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution Used Hardcover
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Product details 304 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393059816 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Charles Darwin took 20 years to write his theory of natural selection: he produced On the Origin of Species only on learning that he was about to be scooped. Was he a chronic procrastinator? Or was he afraid of the reaction of his peers, who had scorned earlier books on the 'transmutation' of species? A bit of both came into play, but as acclaimed science journalist Quammen (Song of the Dodo) shows, during those two decades, Darwin was busy conducting scientific research that would bolster his observations of the finches and mockingbirds of the Galpagos Islands. He raised pigeons and theorized that domestic varieties could be traced back to a species of wild dove. He floated asparagus seeds in saltwater to explain how plants moved from one continent to another. Quammen commences his portrait with Darwin's homecoming from his five-year trip on the Beagle and then focuses on how he gained enough confidence and evidence to publish a book that would displace humankind from its privileged position as a special creation. This often slyly witty book stands out among the flood of books being published for Darwin's bicentenary. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Though much more than a reductionist Darwin for Dummies, Quammen's biography is also a bit less than the 'intimate' portrait it advertises. Yet with clarity, brevity, and quick, colorful anecdotes, he sketches a compelling story. While we may not end up inside the head of one of the most influential thinkers in centuries, we certainly make his acquaintance in a most agreeable way." (read the entire CSM review)
"Review" by , "A first-rate look at the English naturalist's career after the Beagle....Quammen's portrait of the greatman and his magnum opus is affectionate and well-paced."
"Review" by , "Walking readers through the origin and the content of The Origin of Species, Quammen proves an informative, often wry guide to Darwin's life and continuing influence."
"Review" by , "[A] concise, tightly focused, engaging, and informative biography that...provides a satisfying portrait of this controversial man and has the potential to reach a larger audience. Highly recommended."
"Synopsis" by , Drawing from Charles Darwin's secret "transmutation" notebooks and his personal letters, Quammen has sketched a vivid life portrait of the man whose work never ceases to be controversial.
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