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Kirkus ReviewsStefoff told part of Darwin's story in Scientific Explorers (1992); here she expands a chapter into a lucid, lively, systematic account of his two great journeys—one physical, one intellectual—and the modern course of the controversy he sparked.
Temperamentally unsuited for either medicine or the clergy, young Darwin was still casting about for direction in life when he wangled a berth on the Beagle; five years later, he returned, of course, with crates of specimens, volumes of observations, and some disturbing ideas about nature that would occupy him for the next half-century. Noting that Darwin was not a lone genius, but part of a scientific community a-froth with new ideas and discoveries, Stefoff carefully traces the antecedents to his theory of natural selection, and describes its refinement, both in his hands, and in those of his successors, up to Stephen Jay Gould's concept of "punctuated equilibrium." The storm of opposition gets due notice, too, from Tennyson's In Memoriam through the Scopes Trial to today's Creation Science (its arguments are delivered, however, without conviction or detail). This is a first-rate portrait of the man, public and private, as well as his circle and his scientific legacy, not as charming as Piero Ventura's Darwin, Nature Reinterpreted (1995, not reviewed) but thoughtful and authoritative.