Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859. Anniversary edition.

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Charles Darwin changed the direction of modern thought by establishing the basis of evolutionary biology. This fascinating selection of letters, offers a glimpse of his daily experiences, scientific observations, personal concerns and friendships. Beginning with a charming set of letters at the age of twelve, through his university years in Edinburgh and Cambridge up to the publication of his most famous work, On the Origin of Species in 1859, these letters chart one of the most exciting periods of Darwin's life, including the voyage of the Beagle and subsequent studies which led him to develop his theory of natural selection. Darwin's vivid writing style enables the reader to see the world through his own eyes, as he matures from grubby schoolboy in Shropshire to one of the most controversial thinkers of modern times. This is a special Anniversary Edition of the best-selling Burkhardt: Charles Darwin's Letters: A Selection, 1825–1859

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This fascinating selection of letters...chart one of the most exciting periods of Darwin's life, including the voyage of the Beagle and subsequent studies which led him to develop his theory of natural selection."
-Southeastern Naturalist
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 ( 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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521898621
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2007
  • Edition description: Anniversary edition
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Stephen Jay Gould; Introduction; Note on the text; Acknowledgements; Symbols and abbreviations; Prologue; Shrewsbury; Edinburgh; Cambridge; The offer; The voyage: South America - East Coast; The voyage: South American - West Coast; Homeward Bound; 1837; 1838; 1839–1843; 1844; 1845–1846; 1847; 1848; 1849; 1850; 1851; 1852–1854; 1855.

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