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Examines the personality as well as the thought process which led this naturalist to his discoveries which have helped shape our understanding of the natural world.
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.
"Budding evolutionary biologists will welcome this thoroughly researched biography, which emphasizes Darwin's tremendous influence in scientific, social, and political spheres."--Booklist
"Stefoff is an excellent, lucid writer... This delightful little book is quite accessible to readers with little background in biology... Young readers will inevitably learn something about evolution..."--Quarterly Review of Biology
"A lucid, lively, systematic account of [Darwin's] two great journeys--one physical, one intellectual--and the modern course of the controversy he sparked."--Kirkus Reviews
"Not only an excellent biography but also a fine introduction to evolutionary biology.... Well-captioned black-and-white archival photographs, reproductions, and drawings, a chronology, and two-or-three page sidebars all extend the text.... A well-written, thoroughly engaging biography."--School Library Journal