Darwin’s First Theory: Exploring Darwin’s Quest for a Theory of Earth

Rob Wesson. Pegasus, $28.95 (462p) ISBN 978-1-68177-316-2
Wesson, scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey, reexamines Darwin’s life and his Beagle voyage to illuminate the great scientist’s contributions to geology. Though known best for the theory of evolution, Darwin was initially given a berth on the Beagle as a geologist. In South America, Darwin’s observations led him to the belief that a gradual process of uplift was the primary factor in the changes in the Earth. He also discovered examples of fossilized megafauna and, later in the voyage, developed a theory of the formation of coral atolls. Wesson journeys to some of Darwin’s destinations, both to examine the theories in context and to evaluate the effects of recent earthquakes. He quotes Darwin often; giving readers a sense of Darwin’s thought processes and occasionally beautiful writing. Darwin’s theory of uplift was superseded by plate tectonics in the mid-20th century, but Wesson reminds readers that Darwin “simply did not have enough of the pieces to solve the puzzle.” Later chapters address the development of the concept of plate tectonics as a logical follow-up to Darwin’s work as well as current theories on megafauna extinction. Readers interested in Darwin, the earth sciences, and field-based research will find this well worth their time. Agent: Jane von Mehren, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/20/2017
Release date: 04/11/2017
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-68177-377-3
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