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Charles Darwin: Voyaging: v. 1


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I realized that I had never fully understood Fitzroy or Lyell or Dr. Darwin or Emma ... especially Darwin himself. Janet Browne not only makes these historical figures real, three dimensional people, but she shows so elegantly how they affected and interacted with one another. This is not just another biography of Darwin, but a unique and important contribution; it will outlast all others. The scholarship is ... impeccable. -- John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University

About the Author

Janet Browne, trained as a zoologist and historian of science, is a lecturer in the history of biology at the Wellcome Institute in London. She was formerly a research fellow at Harvard University and associate editor of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin. She is the author of many scholarly papers and several books, including The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography.


The centerpiece of this vivid portrait of Darwin, the first volume of a two-volume biography, is an account of his five-year expedition on the Beagle (1831-36), which transformed a seasick, Cambridge-educated science apprentice into a keen observer of nature and amateur geologist. Drawing on a wealth of new material from family archives, Brown masterfully recreates the personal, cultural and intellectual matrix out of which Darwin's evolutionary theory took shape. We glimpse many facets of Darwin: the failed medical student; the laid-back undergraduate; the impassioned abolitionist; the explorer roping cattle with gauchos on the Argentine pampas; the chronically ill country squire, the patriarchal husband and reluctant atheist whose devout Anglican wife, Emma, disapproved of his theory of human origins. Browne, an English historian of science and associate editor of Darwin's Correspondence, captures the spirit of a quietly revolutionary scientist whose ingrained Victorian prejudices were at odds with his radical ideas. Photos. (Feb.)

"This book deserves the adjectives of praise traditionally used by reviewers to describe masterpieces... It is wonderful and marvelous, even magisterial."--Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Review of Books "There is no better chronicle of Darwin as human being, friend, and indefatigable scientist, nor anywhere a richer description of his milieu, his family life, his social circle, and his scientific connections. Browne's extraordinary knowledge of the literature of the period makes her account particularly insightful... [A] masterpiece... Browne knows how to spellbind the reader... The definitive Darwin biography."--Ernst Mayr, Newsday "A wonderful and well-rounded portrait... We watch Darwin grow from a careless and happy young boy to a driven and ambitious young man, and Browne is very good at letting us see the moments when Darwin began to sense the scope of his own powers... This Darwin is remarkably real."--Jonathan Weiner, The Washington Post "Exciting and richly evocative."--Kirkus Reviews "No other biography has matched Browne's ability to capture so richly the details of Darwin's time and to convey them with such direct and engaging prose."--Library Journal (starred review)

After editing eight volumes of Darwin's correspondence (available from Cambridge University Press), Browne has many new insights into this complex figure. Her new book, the first volume in a planned two-volume biography, describes Darwin's childhood, education, his voyage on the Beagle, family life, and early researches to 1856, as he begins serious work on his "species book." As in Adrian Desmond and James Moore's Darwin (LJ 5/15/92), Darwin is seen more as a product of his society than in some previous biographies. Desmond and Moore delve more deeply into Darwin's university days than does Browne, while she provides a more detailed account of his Beagle voyage. While calling any Darwin biography "definitive" may be a bit optimistic, this work is certainly an important contribution to the literature on Darwin. Highly recommended for both academic and general collections.-Bruce Neville, Univ. of Texas at El Paso Lib.

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