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Charles Darwin

Cyril Aydon

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Constable & Robinson

Published : 2002

Copyright : Cyril Aydon 2002

ISBN-10 : HB 1-84119-567-7
ISBN-13 : HB 978-1-84119-567-4

Publisher's Write-Up

Thanks to his family's wealth and forbearance Dr Darwin's gifted son could devote all his time to a passionate curiosity about the natural world. No one could have made better use of such advantages, and the young man's physical and intellectual excitement on the Beagle voyage comes freshly alive in this new biography, as do the years of painstaking work that followed that mind-altering experience. Darwin made major contributions to the study of geology, virtually invented the science of ecology, and his two major publications - The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man - changed for ever our view of life on earth and man's place in the natural order.

Cyril Aydon's account combines historical accuracy with a lucid overview of the science. He explains what The Origin of Species was about, and offers a ringside seat at the splendid row that followed publication. In an extended postscript, the author follows the changing fortunes of Darwinian theories according to fashions in intellectual thought, and in the context of two centuries of scientific speculation and discovery. With conflict still raising its head in both the USA and the UK about the teaching of creationism alongside or instead of evolution in our schools, this book allows us to appreciate fully the greatness and the humanity of the father of evolutionary theory.

Aydon has an obvious fondness for his subject, and his lively and well-rounded treatment of one of the best-known figures of history and science is written for all who have an interest in the man or his work.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nigel (130903) Rating (8/10)

Review by Nigel
Rating 8/10
I have to admit although having a strong interest in Charles Darwin from an early age this mainly stemmed from the seventies television series and the subsequent non-fiction natural history titles that tended to abound (such as Darwin’s Forgotten World about the Galapagos Archipelago, Darwin and the Beagle concerning the voyage and obviously On The Origin of Species). I have never, however, read Darwin’s autobiography or any other biography about him. A quick search revels a vast amount of published items and information, not to mention Darwin’s own works, letters, etc., so I have to admire Cyril Aydon for writing his own version. As he admits in his own words… ‘The problem for the Darwin biographer is not what to put in, but what to leave out’.

So, to the point. I really don’t have anything to compare against other than my own feelings for this particular work… and those feelings were very good. Upon finishing I had a real sense of loss, which to me indicates a good, well-written, read. I tend to feel a great deal of sadness when an entire life is played out on the page… it always gives me a dread sense of my own mortality.

I won’t go into a long list on the contents other than to say it is a concise look at Darwin’s life, the impact he had on those around him, the impact on the world at large and an unbiased appraisal on the affects of his work.

An interesting spin-off for myself was the insight into the times of Charles Darwin and the world of the Gentleman. The difference between the rich and the poor was huge. A gentleman, with the right letters of introduction, could basically travel anywhere, safe in the knowledge he would want for very little. Another was the precarious nature of life at the time. It is all so obvious after you read it but like many things it takes the reading to bring it home. Medicines we take for granted today had not been discovered. You may get up in the morning but it couldn’t be assumed you would see the day out fit and well. Living your ‘3 score and 10’ was not as assured as it is today. In Darwin’s day for example, having a child was a serious risk to life.

In summary, a biography of Charles Darwin will prove more interesting to read than, say, one for Posh Spice (in fairness this will depend on your point of view). It will give you an insight into a slice of time that has helped form our present society and as biographies go this popular version is as accomplished as you would wish to find. A real treat.
Nigel (13th September 2003)

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