Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography

Janet Browne, Author . Atlantic Monthly $19.95 (174p) ISBN 978-0-87113-953-5

It may seem peculiar to write a biography of a book, but Darwin's Origin of Species is certainly a worthy subject. A foremost Darwin biographer, Browne takes a straightforward approach to the life and times of this famous tome, beginning with Darwin's early years and journey around the world. She then explains how he developed his theory of evolution (a word that doesn't appear in the first edition) during his years as a country scientist. Darwin included an unusual chapter on things he couldn't yet explain with his theory. On publication, the book gained instant celebrity around the globe—even Queen Victoria took notice of it, though she mused that the book would be too difficult for her to understand. In her discussion of the storm the book aroused, Browne makes the fascinating point that Darwin highly respected his American friend Asa Gray, whose views were very similar to those of today's advocates of intelligent design. Browne's final chapter on the book's legacy isn't comprehensive, but it's a good summary of subsequent modifications to Darwin's theory. This excellent introduction is highly recommended for all readers who want to better understand the heated debates that this book still causes today. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-8021-1824-0
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