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The reluctant Mr. Darwin : an intimate portrait of Charles Darwin and the making
David Quammen
Adult Nonfiction QH31.D2 Q35 2006

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From Publishers' Weekly:

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 Gal pagos 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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Award-winning science writer Quammen (The Song of the Dodo) has spent considerable time with field biologists while on assignment or researching his books. His subject here, Charles Darwin, was a field biologist only during his stint as the naturalist on the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Indeed, unlike scientific contemporaries like Alfred Wallace, Darwin would spend the rest of his life (some 50 years) conducting research from the comfort and quiet of his own home. Instead of retelling the already well-covered Beagle voyage, Quammen concentrates on how Darwin privately developed his theory of evolution and reluctantly made his ideas public when Wallace began to publish similar theories. Combining narrative and essay, the author draws on Darwin's personal letters and secret transmutation notebooks. The result is a concise, tightly focused, engaging, and informative biography that, although not as comprehensive as Janet Browne's prize-winning two- volume Charles Darwin: Voyaging and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, provides a satisfying portrait of this controversial man and has the potential to reach a larger audience. Highly recommended for all library collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/06; for a fictional account of Darwin's Beagle voyage, see Harry Thompson's To the Edge of the World, reviewed on p. 73.-Ed.]-Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll. Lib., Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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