This first volume of Browne's biography of Darwin takes Darwin from his birth to the 1850's as he begins to develop and fine tune his ideas of species adaptation and natural selection as a result of his readings of the work of Robert Malthus, his new understanding of some of the implications of the geological ideas of Sir Charles Lyell, and his intensive study of barnacles, pigeon breeding, and plant fertilization.
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Although focused primarily on Darwin's growth and development as a scientist, Browne does not neglect all the other elements of his life. For example she makes clear that he was a doting father by showing him in all his glory with his first child, William. Indeed the same can be said for his personal relations with the rest of his family. There no question of his love for his wife, but there is little attempt to sketch minutiae of their daily lives together. Detail is reserved for his five year voyage on the Beagle and the ennumeration of his friendships and contacts with other scientists. The picture of Darwin that emerges from her biography, is one of an addicted collector and an impassioned observer of tidbits of nature from his own English gardens and exotic voyage around the world.
The review of this Book prepared by Jack Goodstein