Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyIn this collaborative biography, White and Gribbin (Stephen Hawking; Einstein) aim for a composite overview of Darwin's life and science suitable to the general reader. Darwin was a complex 19th-century English gentleman, handicapped by chronic illness and family trauma. He was also an insightful investigator attuned to the fundamental and still controversial implications of his work. In alternating chapters, journalist White chronicles Darwin's personal life and scientist Gribbin covers his scientific career. The sections tracing development of concepts concerning evolution and related religious ideas are well done. Meshing of the personal and scientific plots is ragged, however, and the picture of the man is not fully satisfying. The broad strokes of personal history and cultural background are enlightening, but much detail is of uncertain interest or relevance, and the characterization is marred by overly assertive interpretations of Darwin's inner sentiments. (Dec.)
Gilbert TaylorThe prolific and seasoned duo of White and Gribbin position their solid product a notch below the "definitive" level in hopes of snaring readers ordinarily put off by massive, footnoted compendiums of famous people's lives. In their formula (previously displayed in biographies of Hawking and Einstein), brisk, to-the-point narrative is king, supported by chapters dedicated to explaining the scientist's theories a-gestating. In Darwin's case, his revolutionary theory of evolution perked along in his mind for two decades following his immortal odyssey on the "Beagle". Because of inherited wealth, he could afford to sit, think, and observe, but life was no picnic. Illnesses plagued him, the nature of which was speculatively diagnosed in a recent "definitive" biog ("Charles Darwin" by John Bowlby, 1991). Ailments, however, didn't rein in his scientific activity; even before "Origin of Species" upended the world, Darwin was one of England's better, and better known, writers of natural history (on geology, initially). Touching on all essentials, the authors here take customary command of the life and the science, making this an excellent first-stop biog for readers new to Darwin.
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