The legend of Charles Darwin has never been more alive or more potent, but by virtue of this, his legacy has become susceptible to myths and misunderstandings. Understanding Charles Darwin examines key questions such as what did Darwin's work change about the world? In what ways is 'Darwinism' reflective of Darwin's own views? What problems were left unsolved? In our elevation of Darwin to this iconic status, have we neglected to recognise the work of other scientists? The book also examines Darwin's struggle with his religious beliefs, considering his findings, and whether he was truly an atheist. In this engaging account, Peterson paints an intimate portrait of Darwin from his own words in private correspondence and journals. The result is the Darwin you never knew.
Introduction: The legends of charles darwin
1. The evolutionary darwins, 1794-1835
2. The truth about atolls
3. London calling, 1836-1842
5. '[T]his view of life, with its several powers'
6. Saint Charles's place
7. The struggle is real
Conclusion: The legend machine
Erik L. Peterson is an award-winning Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Alabama (USA), and a co-host of the podcast Speaking of Race. Erik researches the conceptual foundations of genetics, evolutionary biology, and anthropology, and is especially interested in the persistence of race science. His book, The Life Organic: The Theoretical Biology Club and the Roots of Epigenetics (2017), told the forgotten story of British scientists who discovered epigenetics before the Second World War – 70 years before it revolutionized American biology. He also co-authored A Deeper Sickness (2022), a daily history of 2020, which critics have called 'harrowing' and a call for a 'national reckoning.'