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Evolution: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin 1860-1870
     

Evolution: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin 1860-1870

by Frederick Burkhardt
 

Charles Darwin is a towering figure in the history of science, who changed the direction of modern thought by establishing the basis of evolutionary biology. With a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough, this is a fascinating insight into Darwin's life as he first directly addressed the issues of humanity's place in nature, and the consequences of his ideas for

Overview

Charles Darwin is a towering figure in the history of science, who changed the direction of modern thought by establishing the basis of evolutionary biology. With a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough, this is a fascinating insight into Darwin's life as he first directly addressed the issues of humanity's place in nature, and the consequences of his ideas for religious belief. Incorporating previously unpublished material, this volume includes letters written by Darwin, and also those written to him by friends and scientific colleagues world-wide, by critics who tried to stamp out his ideas, and admirers who helped them to spread. They take up the story of Darwin's life in 1860, in the immediate aftermath of the publication of On the Origin of Species, and carry it through one of the most intense and productive decades of his career, to the eve of publication of Descent of Man in 1871.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...this is a fascinating insight into Darwin's life as he first directly addresses the issues of humanity's place in nature, and the consequences of his ideas for religious belief...The only text of its kind to contain the actual letters written to and by Darwin makes this a unique piece of publishing...an enjoyable read for anyone interested in Darwin"
-Southeatern Naturalist, 2009
Library Journal

In addition to Darwin's scholarly books and articles, his voluminous letters make him perhaps the most prolific correspondent in the history of science. This body of work has been edited and presented selectively in a variety of sources, most notably the projected-32-volume Correspondence of Charles Darwin(Cambridge Univ., 1985-), and can be viewed at Darwin Online (darwin-online.org.uk). What, then, is the value of these three new epistolary anthologies? The linchpin is the editorship of the late Burkhardt, founder of the Darwin Correspondence Project. Throughout, his careful selections, accompanied by clarifying footnotes, provide context and connections for the separate entries so that they can be read as a continuous narrative. Origins begins with a 12 year old's diary entries about his brother's rude behavior and proceeds chronologically, one chapter per one year's smattering of abridged correspondence. Included are letters on Darwin's studies, his family and personal life, and various reflections on subjects as varied as barnacles and poultry. Evolution picks up where Origins leaves off, with Darwin squarely in the midst of the public controversy surrounding his evolutionary theories. The methods of Darwin's genius are especially evident in his personal writings answering critics. Still, both books are essentially samplers, and, while enlightening, serve dilettante interests rather than scholarly needs.

By comparison, the sections in Origins covering Darwin's Beagle correspondence contain around two dozen significant letters, while the much more expansive The Beagle Letters reprints over 200 from thatsame period, with details on every port of call. The scrutiny of this period (1831-36) is appropriate in that these were formative years when Darwin conducted the major field research that led to his formulation of evolutionary theories. These letters also tell a gripping tale of high seas adventure and exploration.


—Gregg Sapp

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521874120
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
06/09/2008
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
8.98(w) x 6.16(h) x 0.83(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Frederick Burkhardt (1912-2007) was the founder of the Charles Darwin Correspondence Project, and the associated high profile book series The Correspondence of Charles Darwin (Cambridge University Press, 1985- ). He was President of the American Council of Learned Societies from 1957 to 1974, and in 2003 was awarded the American Philosophical Society Thomas Jefferson Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts, Humanities, or Social Sciences.

Alison Pearn is Assistant Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project, and an affiliated research scholar of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University.

Samantha Evans is an editor at the Charles Darwin Correspondence Project, based at Cambridge University Library. The Project was set up to locate, research, and publish summaries of all letters written by Charles Darwin, the most celebrated naturalist of the nineteenth century.

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