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Charles Darwin was a pathfinder, but he wasn't alone in his search for clues about the evolution of species. A month after the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species, a critical reader reminded him of just that. Recognizing the truth in the complaint, the mild-mannered Victorian biologist attempted to rectify the situation, but the tardy, relatively brief "historical sketch" that he inserted in the first American edition of his classic did not really fill the need. Fortunately, historian/novelist Rebecca Stott (Darwin and the Barnacle; The Coral Thief) remedies the situation with a deftly turned narrative about the intellectual predecessors that made Darwin's breakthrough ideas if not inevitable, at least plausible. More than a footnote; a significant story, well-told.