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Darwin: The Power of Observation and Reflection

Biography / Memoir

By: Guido J Braem(Author), Sandra L Ohlun(Editor)

568 pages, colour & b/w plates, maps

Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh

Paperback | Jan 2015 | #232088 | ISBN-13: 9788121109017
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-4 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £97.50 $124/€109 approx

About this book

Language: English

Charles Robert Darwin is a polarizing personality. To some, he is one of the most famous naturalists in the history of mankind; to others he is The Devil's Cousin.

No matter how people view Charles Darwin, it is remarkable that very few know who Darwin really was, what he achieved, when, how, and why. But Darwin was the man who put together a theory that was to shake the foundations of mankind's understanding of this world. Thus, no matter whether one considers Darwin a great scientist or a relative of Beelzebub, it remains interesting to know about the man, his life, and his work.

Prof. Braem, a biologist and historian of science, begins by investigating Charles Darwin's family and shows that Darwin's grandfather Erasmus, a famous physician and poet, as well as his father and several other members of the Darwin family, had a keen interest in scientific matters. But he also shows that Darwin's road to naturalism was characterized by detours and surprises. After growing up in a wealthy family, Darwin ended up at the University in Edinburgh where he was, as decided by his authoritarian but revered father, to study medicine. Finally, Charles attended Cambridge to become a country parson; just by chance he sailed on HMS Beagle, a small battleship converted to survey the coasts of South America, as the table companion for Robert Fitz Roy, a brilliant young navy commander with royal genes and depressive tendencies.

Nearly five years of exploration made young Darwin become a naturalist, first favouring geology but soon turning to biology and the question of the variability of species and thus evolution. For that, Charles Darwin will be famous as long as man walks this planet.

Braem discusses every aspect of Charles Darwin's provenance and education, his luck to be on HMS Beagle, the long and not always easy route to his famous Origin of Species, his battle with religion and belief, and his life-long insecurity and enigmatic illness.

The origin of species, although without any doubt Darwin's masterpiece, would not be the end of his work, and for more than 20 years after its publication, Darwin would write about the pollination of orchids, the variation in plants, the origin of man, and the expression of emotions, all aspects that were fundamental pillars for the proof of his theory.

But Braem's book is a critical biography: it addresses Darwin's errors, and some of the myths surrounding the British savant. These are stories that are spread around in the secondary literature and the textbooks of biology to this day. And it discusses the tightrope walk of a Victorian revolutionary in disguise.

Darwin- The Power of Observation and Reflection is the most complete biography of one of Britain's and the world's foremost scientists and enigmatic characters. It is a masterful outline of life and science in Victorian times, of the need for hypocrisy to survive in a society controlled by the Anglican Church and in a marriage with a loving but extremely religious wife. It is a fascinating account of perseverance and chance, the story of a man who changed the world.


1. Charles Darwin’s pedigree
2. Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah “Sukey” Wedgwood
3. The early days
4. Edinburgh and Cambridge
5. The chance of a lifetime
6. Meeting the captain
7. His majesty’s coffin class
8. On the ‘Road’ for five years
9. Bringing the Fuegians home
10. The West coast
11. The Galapagos Archipelago
12. Home around the globe
13. Sorting things out in London and Cambridge
14. To marry or not to marry
15. A famous and independently wealthy gentleman
16. Becoming a famous recluse
17. Barnacles Galore
18. Species – first thoughts
19. The dilemma with Emma
20. Confidants and soldiers
21. Huxley, Hooker and Gray
22. Enter Wallace
23. Crossing a poker with a rabbit
24. How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that!
25. Showdown at Oxford
26. Do you really think I can believe all that?
27. Overseas affairs
28. Variation
29. The Triumph of the missionaries
30. That eminently domesticated animal
31. The expression of emotion
32. Plants that “Eat” animals
33. An era comes to a close
34. From down to Westminster


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