- Paperback: 896 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (20 January 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393311503
- ISBN-13: 978-0393311501
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 4.1 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,33,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Darwin – The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist Paperback – Import, 20 Jan 1995
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A book that makes such an astounding physical as well as cerebral impact is a very rare commodity indeed.--Anthony Burgess
Pick is up and you are hooked, by the racy writing, the memorable turns of phrase, the historical insights and the sheer bravado of their performance.--William Bynum
Unquestionably the finest [biography] ever written about Darwin. . . . Darwin has now become, and properly, the quintessentially socially embedded scientist. Desmond and Moore are brilliant in their pursuit of this truly unifying theme.--Stephen Jay Gould
At last, a biography to match the man. . . . Darwin, his family, his colleagues, and his milieu come alive in this book. . . . Superbly written.--Everett Menselson, Harvard University
About the Author
Adrian Desmond is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Biology Department at University College London. He has written numerous books on evolution and Victorian science.
James Moore is a reader in history of science and technology at the Open University.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
As succinctly stated by the authors “More than any modern thinker – even Freud or Marx – this affable old-world naturalist from the minor Shropshire gentry has transformed the way we see ourselves on the planet” (Kindle location 371-373).
This book helps to observe and partly understand how this happened by providing an outstanding profile of Darwin, as a human and an outstanding empirical researcher leading to one of the most momentous scientific revolutions, in the context of the ongoing transformation of England moving into the Victorian period.
The text presents the emergence of main ideas and problems of the science of evolution which are not only of historic interest, but in large part continue to modern research. preoccupy essential for understanding its present standing. In particular, in my reading it also makes clear that the emerging ability of humankind to deliberately shape its future evolution thanks to leaping biological, nano-technological and artificial intelligence knowledge and tools – what is called the “Singularity” – require an additional paradigmatic quantum-leap, otherwise our species is quite likely to eradicate itself.
But there is a serious problem: timely elaboration of a novel paradigm fitting the evolutionary challenges of the Singularity may well require a genius of the caliber of Darwin, in addition to building stones provided by high-quality but “normal” scientists and philosophers. All the more do I regret that the book does not provide any clear insights into what makes a genius, leaving this a perplexing riddle..
This is not a complaint: Despite all the advances in cognitive psychology and neurosciences, the nature of “geniuses” remains an enigma which the authors should not be expected to solve. Still, as they know more about Darwin than anyone else, I would have welcomed their impressions, or at least some guesstimates, on the “genius” features of Darwin and their genesis. Was his breakthrough triggered by empiric impressions starting with his long sea trip, or/and by some ideas beginning to emerge in his period, or/and some kind of dreamlike inspiration, or what?
As it is, the book is required reading for all who want to understand modernity and the challenes facing it, as largely shaped by the science of evolution founded by Darwin.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The book covers the state of English society during Darwin's life and gives an excellent overview of the influences working upon Darwin. I would recommend this book highly to anyone interested in history per se. Darwin was not a complex man in this rendition, but a creature of his time and place.
Much like H.W. Brands's biography of Benjamin Franklin, the authors here do an excellent job of bringing Darwin back to life, both the highs and the lows (including lots of personal tragedy) that shaped his monumental career. Heartbreak played as great a role in his life as discovery.
Compulsively readable without sacrificing detail, all of the major milestones of his life are covered in a personal perspective which gives exactly as much emphasis as events must have had at the time -- even ones which have since reached mythic proportions. This is, as Steven Jay Gould touts on the cover, "Unquestionably, the finest [biography] ever written about Darwin..."