On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. The original title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. I’ve decided to share the review of this book today because it is also Darwin Day. Last year I’ve been to a lecture about laughter, given by Prof Sophie Scott at University of Central Lancashire. I’ve decided that I’m going to read On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and share the review on Darwin Day. Today I’m in London, attending a lecture by Professor Richard Dawkins (author of The Selfish Gene and other amazing books like The God Delusion) and Professor Alice Roberts.
We take for granted the knowledge we have today. Also, we look at documentaries on BBC, maybe narrated by David Attenborough, and see all that amazing footage with whales swimming in the oceans, cuckoo chicks throwing eggs out of nest, bees building their hives with their incredibly complex social system. We know about genes and DNA, how climate has an impact on plants and animals, but the research had to start somewhere and it did, with a fantastic book, named On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. At the time the book was published, the Neanderthal man was uncovered in Germany three years previously. It took a long time for scientists to accept that it was another kind of human, exactly eight years, in 1864.
Darwin studied divinity at Cambridge, but, luckily for humanity, he decided not to pursue this career. It’s remarkable he was able to challenge the religious dogmas and accept that animals and plants evolved and they were not created. Some people struggle even today with this kind of notions, puzzling, I know.
The book is written for the general reader, but is not an easy read by our modern standards. Even so, it is not exactly a difficult read either. I’ve loved the book and I would highly recommend it. The book is a masterpiece. The way he builds up his ideas is remarkable.
you can see here more pictures from the home of Charles Darwin on my lifestyle blog.
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Details about the picture: I’ve used my Wedgewood vase because he was married to a Wedgewood.
My rating: 5/5 Stars.
Would I recommend it: Yes
Published by: Arcturus
Year it was published: my edition in 2017. First time was published in 1859
About the author: Charles Robert Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, the fifth of six children of wealthy parents. His grandfathers were Josiah Wedgewood, industrialist and anti-slavery campaigner, and Erasmus Darwin, a doctor who wrote a book called ‘Zoonomia’ where he set out a radical idea – that one species could ‘transmute’ into another.
Darwin went to Edinburgh University to study medicine. He didn’t enjoy it, but studied science. It was a better place to engage in radical ideas comparing to more conservatives Oxford and Cambridge.
His tutor at Cambridge recommended him as a “gentleman naturalist” on a voyage around the world on HMS Beagle. He loved the idea and sailed with HMS Beagle for the next 4 years, despite having sea sickness. Darwin collected specimens from South America and the Galapágos Islands, thinking more and more about the origin of species. In 1851, Darwin’s favourite daughter, 10-year-old Anne died and that had a big impact on him.
He spent his time writing about evolution, but didn’t publish anything, before receiving a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace read what Darwin published about his travels and went on to travel himself.
Wallace independently arrived at a theory of natural selection and wanted Darwin’s advice on how to publish. Darwin knew he had to go public or Wallace would take credit for the new ideas. At that time, Wallace was abroad and uncontactable. This presented a new difficulty for Darwin, besides considering if he should speak out, he also had to decide how to treat Wallace fairly. The ideas of Darwin and Wallace were presented to the Linnean Society, leading Natural History body at that time. Extracts from his and Wallace’s papers were presented at the same meeting. Both of them missed the presentation, as Wallace was away and Darwin had to deal with another personal tragedy, his son died, aged 18 months.
He wasn’t eager to defend his ideas in public, but Prof Thomas Huxley was ready to fight. In a debate, he said that he didn’t see that it mattered much to a man whether his grandfather were an ape or no. Of course, the religious arguments were the ones standing in the way of science.
Darwin considered other aspects, like inbreeding, but he didn’t want to discuss on the matter. He was married to his cousin and he was a devoted husband and father. Do visit their home in Kent if you can, it will shed a light on him as a man. But, he knew that self-fertilised orchids were less healthy, and he considered that to be the case for humans too. From the 10 children they had, three died and others were sick. But, as Queen Victoria married her own cousin, that was a subject Darwin was not ready to talk about.
By the time he wrote the 5th edition, he said he was “agnostic”, using a term coined by Huxley. In 1871, Darwin published The Descent of Man. It was a hard concept to accept, but, in the decade after On the Origin of Species was published, more and more scientists called themselves “Darwinists”.
He died in 1882, surrounded by a few friends and his wife, Emma. She retained her religious beliefs. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Darwin’s legacy consists of amazing books that presented revolutionary ideas like the origins of nature and of men, the tree of life. I will like to read two more books by him: The Descent of Man and The Expression of the Emotions.