Saturday, 11 November 2017
Book Review - The Quotable Darwin - Princeton University Press
Perhaps no figure in history has been more controversial or more seminally important than Charles Darwin. This legendary naturalist overturned all conventional thought as to the very beginnings of life itself and, heretically at the time, postulated that even Homo sapiens was derived from natural events and not by divine creation. He was a brave man indeed to advance such ideas in the nineteenth century!
In a stroke of irony, another naturalist who has left his brand on modern science, Alfred Russell Wallace, was contemporaneously coming to the same conclusions as Darwin.
I have a well worn copy of On the Origin of Species (1859) on my book shelf, as well as The Voyage of the Beagle (1845), The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Darwin has been important to me for most of my adult life and many is the time I have turned to his works for foundational ideas and thematic progression.
The Quotable Darwin is the work of Janet Browne, arguably the foremost scholar extant of Charles Darwin. It enables the reader to instantly focus in on Darwin the man, Darwin the young explorer, Darwin the husband, Darwin the father, Darwin the scientist, Darwin the revolutionary - all the various facets of the life of this great man. Darwin was notably shy and did not seek publicity and a chapter is devoted to other people's impressions of him, as he was already being recognized (or reviled) by some as one of the foremost thinkers in the history of humankind.
In order to test the usefulness of the book I thought of certain aspects of Darwin's work where I might profit from looking at the original text, and without exception I found material that exactly fit the bill, saving me the time and effort to find it, being uncertain exactly where to look.
This book is being published at a very apropos time in the 21st Century, where in some countries there is a resurgence of creationist theory and a denial of science. It can only be hoped that this book will help people to steer the right course as they reexamine the most important concepts that have shaped our very understanding of life on Planet Earth.
Publication date: 15 November 2017
Price: US$24.95; £19.94