CHARLES DARWIN: The Life of a Revolutionary Thinker

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Author . Holiday $22.95 (144p) ISBN 0-8234-1494-9

This thoroughly researched but clinical biography presents the life and theories of one of history's most innovative and influential scientists. Patent (Prairie; Biodiversity), a trained scientist, excels when dissecting Darwin's experiments and thought processes, and her analysis is clear and passionate. But elsewhere, the writing becomes labored (e.g., a commentary on the dress code at Cambridge, a convoluted discussion of the scientist's early questionnaires) and distracts from Darwin's groundbreaking work and approach. The volume begins on a strong note with a prologue that connects the challenges of curing the modern common cold and AIDS (due to their evolving nature) with Darwin's theory of natural selection; in this way, Patent makes Darwin's work immediately relevant for contemporary readers. She also debunks several popular myths regarding Darwin, including the legend that he formulated his theory of evolution in its entirety during his five-year journey as naturalist aboard the Beagle; in truth he devoted an additional 26 years after his journey to scientific observation before publishing The Origin of Species in 1859. While the text conveys chronological details regarding Darwin's personal life (his wife, children, tragedies and friendships), it rarely captures the relationships or passions of the man, nor the mood of the era. Ages 10-up. (July)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
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