Few lives of great men offer so much interest--and so many mysteries--as the life of Charles Darwin, the greatest figure of nineteenth-century science, whose ideas are still inspiring discoveries and controversies more than a hundred years after his death. Yet only now, with the publication of Voyaging, the first of two volumes that will constitute the definitive biography, do we have a truly vivid and comprehensive picture of Darwin as man and as scientist. Drawing upon much new material, supported by an unmatched acquaintance with both the intellectual setting and the voluminous sources, Janet Browne has at last been able to unravel the central enigma of Darwin's career: how did this amiable young gentleman, born into a prosperous provincial English family, grow into a thinker capable of challenging the most basic principles of religion and science? The dramatic story of Voyaging takes us from agonizing personal challenges to the exhilaration of discovery; we see a young, inquisitive Darwin gradually mature, shaping, refining, and finally setting forth the ideas that would at last fall upon the world like a thunderclap in The Origin of Species. ?
Browne's scholarship yields enormous clarity and breadth of vision. It's not just a brilliant biography and contextual history, but sets challenging standards for the writing of biography in general. This is certainly the best biography I have read in a very long time.
I'm busy with the second volume now. Review coming when done!