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The Annotated Origin: A Facsimile of the First Edition of On the Origin of Species

Charles Darwin, Author, James T. Costa, Annotations by . Harvard/Belknap $35 (537p) ISBN 978-0-674-03281-1

Costa, professor of biology at Western Carolina University, does a wonderful job of annotating Darwin's groundbreaking classic On the Origin of Species. In more than 900 notes, he explains, expands, contextualizes and updates much of what Darwin had to say about evolution and its causes. For example, throughout the Origin , Darwin briefly referenced many informants; Costa provides background information on each of those individuals. He also directs readers to places in Darwin's earlier writings that presage points made in the Origin . When discussing what Darwin terms “[o]rgans of extreme perfection and complication,” he focused on the evolution of the vertebrate eye. Costa explains the logic Darwin used and how modern biological studies have supported Darwin's contentions, concluding that his “insight underlies modern phylogenetic reconstruction.” In a brief “Coda,” Costa summarizes the changes Darwin made to the Origin in its six editions and the reasons for them. Costa's thoughtful and informative notes enable readers to gain a much fuller appreciation for Darwin's genius and breadth of knowledge—a fine tribute in the great scientist's bicentennial year. (May)

Reviewed on: 03/09/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
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