Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory

Biography / MemoirNew
How Darwin found universal evolutionary truths in simple yet ingenious home-spun experiments

By: James T Costa(Author)

441 pages, 60 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

W.W. Norton & Co.

Hardback | Oct 2017 | #235989 | ISBN-13: 9780393239898
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $28/€23 approx

About this book

James T. Costa takes readers on a journey from Charles Darwin's youth and travels on the HMS Beagle to Down House, his bustling home of forty years. To test his insights into evolution, Darwin devised experiments using his garden and greenhouse, the surrounding land and his home-turned-field-station. His experiments yielded universal truths about nature and evidence for his revolutionary arguments in On the Origin of Species and other watershed works. We accompany Darwin in his myriad pursuits against the backdrop of his enduring marriage, chronic illness, grief at the loss of three children and joy in scientific revelation. At each chapter's end, Costa shows how we can investigate the wonders of nature, with directions on how to re-create Darwin's experiments.

"Instructive and entertaining [...] the insights Costa provides into Darwin's thinking and his revelations about the great man's working life make this a worthwhile read."
Kirkus Reviews

"[Darwin's Backyard] takes readers on a journey [...] revealing how [Darwin] found universal evolutionary truths in simple yet ingenious homespun experiments."
Publishers Weekly

"Most readers will be surprised to learn of the incredible amount of field research, observation, and experimentation that Charles Darwin did in the many years after his famous voyage. Costa [...] argues that those experiences are not only foundational but also educational: they explain evolution better than any classroom lecture."
Library Journal

"So much more than a biography [...] [Darwin's Backyard] is accessible and fun."
Booklist (starred review)

"A passionate but balanced celebration of [Darwin's] lifelong obsession with enquiry and how the fields and meadows around his home were a microcosm of the wider world [...] Costa more than achieves his stated goals of revealing the evolution of Darwin's insights and the relevance of his methods now."
– Henry Nicholls, Nature

"An unusual look at the daily creative life of a great scientist, with opportunities to dig in and observe the workings of nature first hand using methods very similar to his own."
Shelf Awareness

"Readers will enjoy the tales Costa tells and the experience of re-creating some of the famous naturalist's most enlightening work."
– Sid Perkins, Science News

"The immense library available on Darwin's life and contributions may seem exhaustive. James T. Costa, writing only as a modern naturalist of the first rank can, shows us how drastically wrong that perception has been. If you've ever fantasized walking and conversing with the great scientist on the subjects that consumed him, and now wish to add the fullness of reality, read this book."
– Edward O. Wilson, author of Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

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James T. Costa is a professor of biology at Western Carolina University, executive director of Highlands Biological Station, and a trustee of the Charles Darwin Trust. He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

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