Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution

Iain McCalman, Author . Norton $29.95 (422p) ISBN 978-0-393-06814-6

In delightful prose, University of Sydney historian McCalman tells the intertwined stories of Charles Darwin and three younger 19th-century explorers who came together to make the case for evolution and aid its relatively rapid acceptance around the world. The younger three were greatly influenced by Darwin’s 1839 description of his travels on the Beagle and wanted to follow suit. McCalman devotes a section to the travels of each: Darwin on the Beagle; botanist Joseph Hooker’s journeys around Australia and Antarctica; biologist Thomas Henry Huxley’s excursions around Australia and New Guinea; and zoologist Alfred Russel Wallace’s years in the Amazon and throughout Southeast Asia. Although there’s little that hasn’t been told previously, McCalman does a good job of detailing the hardships each suffered while also demonstrating the scientific growth each underwent and explaining how their shared experiences brought them together. Once Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, the other three became his biggest and most public supporters, and their tireless efforts changed Darwin’s reputation from being “the Devil’s Disciple” to one of England’s most respected scientists. 16 pages of color illus.; maps. (Aug. 17)

Reviewed on: 05/18/2009
Release date: 08/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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