Darwin's Origin of species : a biography

by E. J. Browne

Hardcover, 2006




New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, c2006.


Darwin's foremost biographer, historian Janet Browne, delivers an accessible introduction to the book that permanently altered our understanding of what it is to be human. A sensation on its publication in 1859, The Origin of Species profoundly shocked Victorian readers by calling into question the belief in a Creator with its description of evolution through natural selection. And Darwin's seminal work is nearly as controversial today. In this study, Browne delves into the long genesis of Darwin's theories, from his readings as a university student and his five-year voyage on the Beagle, to his debates with contemporaries and experiments in his garden. She explores the shock to Darwin when he read of a competing scientist's similar discoveries, and the wide and immediate impact of Darwin's theories on the world, showing why The Origin of Species can fairly claim to be the greatest science book ever published.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Sandydog1
An interesting essay (not unlike an article from the New Yorker), that can be read in an evening. Part of the Books that Changed the World Series.
LibraryThing member irisiris
Dense yet brief, not a biography of Darwin but a story of the conception, creation and reception of the book that changed everything. Other men were cast out of society for promoting very similar theories: Darwin's mild-mannered character and lovely writing helped make "On the Origin of the Species" a hit.
LibraryThing member idiotgirl
Listened as an audiobook. A very compentent, well-written introduction to Darwin and his most famous book. Provides the background. Brings the story into the present. I would recommend. It gets me ready to try the actual book. Also, I'm intrigued by the biography of a book.
LibraryThing member MarkKeeffe
An excellent telling of the effects of Darwin's work all the up to modern day.
LibraryThing member Devil_llama
A very short introduction to the topic, somewhat simplified. For a day's light reading, you could do a lot worse.
LibraryThing member JohnGrant1

Probably unsurprisingly, this jolly little book doesn't quite live up to its promise in the subtitle -- really it's a selective biography of Darwin himself, focusing on those elements of his life that related to Origin, from inception through composition to aftermath, plus the reactions of others to it. Browne is the author of one of the biographies of Darwin, the whopping two-volume (1200 pages) study comprising Voyaging (1996) and The Power of Place (2003), so obviously she knows what she's talking about; in consequence, I was slightly alarmed to come across the occasional footling mistake, such as spelling Stephen Jay Gould's first name with a "v" rather than a "ph". Such annoyances aside, this was a great read and surprisingly informative for a book that appears at first to be so slight.
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LibraryThing member bibleblaster
Enjoyably informative...Darwin's a fascinating character in a very "un-flashy" way, and I was struck by the deep respect in the relationship with his wife, Emma, even though they were worlds apart in religious orientation.
LibraryThing member PickledOnion42
A nice introduction to a world-changing book; whilst remaining an easy read, Browne encompasses a longer timespan than I had expected, including an account of Darwin's time aboard HMS Beagle as well as the social ramifications of his theory up to the present day (eugenics, Intelligent Design, etc.). The effect writing his book had on Darwin's health is also touched upon which, as one who is ashamedly ignorant of Darwin's life, I was intrigued by. After reading Browne's short work and becoming a little more familiar with the context in which Darwin expounded his theory, I may finally stop procrastinating and actually read The Origin of Species!… (more)



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