The Descent of Manby Charles Darwin
Published to honor the anniversary of Darwin's 200th birthday, these prime excerpts from the great naturalist's landmark work build on the evolutionary concepts introduced in On the Origin of Species. The earlier work provided a basic exposition of Darwinian theory. The Descent of Man, published a dozen years later, asserts that humans are the descendants of apes,
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Published to honor the anniversary of Darwin's 200th birthday, these prime excerpts from the great naturalist's landmark work build on the evolutionary concepts introduced in On the Origin of Species. The earlier work provided a basic exposition of Darwinian theory. The Descent of Man, published a dozen years later, asserts that humans are the descendants of apes, which were descended from even more primitive creatures.
This fascinating treatise on evolutionary psychology explores the two defining forces of human and animal evolution-natural selection and sexual selection. Numerous examples from Darwin's years of study illustrate its compelling conclusion: However much we differ from other animals, we are descended from common ancestors and have evolved in similar ways. Based upon the original edition, this abridgement by a noted Darwinian scholar offers a highly readable version of one of the most important books in the history of science.
Dover (2010) abridged version of the edition published by John Murray Publishers, London, 1871.
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One of the ten most significant books. (Sigmund Freud)"
Meet the Author
Charles Darwin, a Victorian scientist and naturalist, has become one of the most famous figures of science to date. Born in 1809 to an upper-middle-class medical family, he was destined for a career in either medicine or the Anglican Church. However, he never completed his medical education and his future changed entirely in 1831 when he joined HMS Beagle as a self-financing, independent naturalist. On returning to England in 1836 he began to write up his theories and observations which culminated in a series of books, most famously On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, where he challenged and contradicted contemporary biological and religious beliefs with two decades worth of scientific investigation and theory. Darwin's theory of natural selection is now the most widely accepted scientific model of how species evolve. He died in 1882 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Damien Hirst is an internationally renowned English artist, who has dominated the art scene in England since the 1990s. Known in particular for his series of works on death, Hirst here provides a contemporary, visual take on Darwin's theory of evolution - the struggle between life and death in nature.
William Bynum is Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine at University College, London, and was for many years Head of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He edited the scholarly journal Medical History from 1980 to 2001, and his previous publications include Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century; The Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine (co-edited with Roy Porter); The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (with Roy Porter), The Dictionary of Medical Biography (with Helen Bynum), and History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Suffolk.
- Date of Birth:
- February 12, 1809
- Date of Death:
- April 19, 1882
- Place of Birth:
- Shrewsbury, England
- Place of Death:
- London, England
- B.A. in Theology, Christ¿s College, Cambridge University, 1831
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Descent of Man is undoubtedly a great work by a staggeringly original thinker. It is plagued by theoretical problems, however, as many of Darwin's conclusions are inaccurate and even self-contradictory. Compared to Origin of Species, a unified and directed argument, it is at times messy and inconsistent. Nonetheless, a brave work, not to mention seminal in its field. Be forewarned that some of its more 'political' statements will probably cause discomfort if the work isn't looked at as a historical document.
The sad thing about "the Descent of Man" is that it is not more widely read. Darwin had ten years to think about the real meaning of his theory prior to publishing "the Descent of Man", thus, when he did publish it, he was able, with clearlity, to give us a deep understanding of the meaning of his own work. Anyone who wishes to gain an understanding of Darwins work can get it straight from this book. It features athoritative statements from Darwin, on his theory, such as, "...man has ultimately become superior to woman" (Chapt. 19). It includes, while speaking about the meaning of Darwins theory, statements like, "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world....The break between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla." (Chapter 6). In this book Darwin even tells us, on his own athorty, the real meaning of his work for the future of man when he states, " Yet he (man) might by selection do something not only for the bodily constitution and frame of his offspring, but for their intellectual and moral qualities. Both sexes ought to refrain from marraige if they are in any marked degree inferior in body or mind; but such hopes are Utopian and will never be even partially realised until the laws of inheritance are thouroughly known. Everyone does good service, who aids towards this end. When the priniciples of breeding and inheritance are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to ma." (Chapter 21). The book is loaded with such athoritative statements. The problem with Darwinsm today is not that some silly Christian bad mouths it, the problem with Darwinsm today is that not enough people read this book and learn for themselves what Darwin himself claimed to be the real meaning of his theory!