Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution

Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution

Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution

Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution

Synopsis

On the Origin of Species, published in 1858, transformed our view of the world and made Charles Darwin one of the most controversial figures in science. This biography begins much earlier with his long search for a profession, his five-year voyage around the world on the Beagle, and the decades-long intellectual journey he made in his study and garden. But it is for his theory about the origin of man and natural selection that he is remembered. His book threw the scientific community into a heated debate that continues today, and has made evolutionary biology one of the liveliest areas of science. This new biography looks at the person behind the controversy whose earth- shaking discoveries and ideas remain as exciting and interesting as today's headlines.

Excerpt

On September 15, 1835, a small ship called the Beagle sailed toward a cluster of islands that lie scattered across the equator in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles off the west coast of South America. Aboard the Beagle a young scientist named Charles Darwin eagerly awaited a glimpse of land. The first island he saw, however, was a disappointment. “Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance,” he wrote in his journal. The landscape was a broken field of black lava, rising in rugged peaks that were gouged by deep, gaping crevasses. A few stunted, leafless bushes were the only signs of life. Robert FitzRoy, the Beagle’s captain, compared the hot, desolate island to hell, and Darwin wrote, “The dry and parched surface, being heated by the noonday sun, gave to the air a close and sultry feeling, like that from a stove: we fancied even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly.” This was Darwin’s introduction to the Galápagos Islands. Dismal and lifeless as they seemed at first, these islands were to play a vital role in Darwin’s work— work that would revolutionize humankind’s understanding of life on this planet.

The British government had sent the Beagle and its crew on a round-the-world expedition aimed at improv-

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