Read Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist by Adrian J. Desmond James R. Moore Online


Hailed as the definitive biography, this monumental work explains the character and paradoxes of Charles Darwin and opens up the full panorama of Victorian science, theology, and mores. The authors bring to life Darwin's reckless student days in Cambridge, his epic five-year voyage on the Beagle, and his grueling struggle to develop his theory of evolution.Adrian Desmond aHailed as the definitive biography, this monumental work explains the character and paradoxes of Charles Darwin and opens up the full panorama of Victorian science, theology, and mores. The authors bring to life Darwin's reckless student days in Cambridge, his epic five-year voyage on the Beagle, and his grueling struggle to develop his theory of evolution.Adrian Desmond and James Moore's gripping narrative reveals the great personal cost to Darwin of pursuing inflammatory truths—telling the whole story of how he came to his epoch-making conclusions....

Title : Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist
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ISBN : 9780393311501
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 896 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist Reviews

  • Lynne King
    2019-04-03 14:10

    This book has to be one of my favourite biographies and is rather large but definitely worth the effort to delve into the mind of this incredible person.Highly recommended.

  • John
    2019-04-04 14:08

    After p. 235This book is clearly a superlative example of highly successful biographical narrative. There's nothing new in this assessment, so I won't waste words of that kind. I will, however, waste words of another import.Happenstance brought this biography to my attention while I was reading D&M's re-examination of certain events in Darwin's life, which they explored in "Darwin's Sacred Cause" (2009), and now I"m beginning to understand why they authored a second book.D&M are seeking an answer to a question that has sustained their abiding and apparently compelling, even passionate and obsessive, interest in the facts of Darwin's life: What inner "force" propelled his project? However did Darwin contrive to take up the issue of the origin of species and sustain the altogether indefatigable labor that he expended over decades to establish a plausible and defensible basis for his views of descent and differentiation of all life forms, even while his views, once widely known, evoked nearly universal rejection, scorn, contempt, and the rabid hostility of his contemporaries? Hostility that provokes violent confrontations today - nearly 175 years after Darwin first formulated his theory and 153 years after the first edition of The Origin of Species appeared? From what inner resources did he summon this heroic endurance in view of his character and personality - his urgent need for approval, acceptance, adulation, his apparent conventionality, his horror at the prospect of a loss of respectability, loss of standing as an English gentleman? Hence, the presence of "tormented" in D&M's subtitle. A torment that left his entire digestive tract in shreds.In this biography (1994) they offer answers those questions - answers that satisfied them at the time, I suspect, and in their second consideration of them in "Darwin's Sacred Cause" (2009), they present different answers. And they make clear in Sacred Cause how their second set of answers evolved from the first.I won't repeat them here. The fact of this difference, however, merits more detailed consideration, I think, because it raises important questions regarding the possibility of entirely credible biography. D&M, and most any biographer of persons long dead, can do nothing other than to draw upon a limited residue of documentary evidence - literary remains. Darwin journaled, of course. He developed his theory in bits and snatches, along with the questions that these rudiments suggested as they occurred to him, and he recorded it all in his notebooks. He did not, however, record his emotional experience of those critical years around 1837, when he committed his first theoretical and explanatory formulations to paper, nor his emotional experience of later years of unremitting labor and terror as he compiled and interpreted mountainous heaps of evidence that he hoped would silence his critics, who were legion. I doubt, frankly, whether he much cared about or even noticed the emotional toll of his work, except perhaps to decide when he needed and would take another rest cure at a particularly exclusive and fashionable spa. Moreover, Darwin lived before the likes of Barbara Walters were born, so he was never confronted with the annoying questions that interviewers of today ask: What need motivated for this, that or the other? How do you account for...? How did it feel when ....?D&M ask the same sort of questions, of course (How could they not?), and in arriving at answers they must grapple with many, many silences, gaps in the record. [I imagine them standing before Darwin's tomb in Westminster Abbey, pounding his monument with their fists, pleading for answers. How could you...? Why did you...?] So they do what they have to do - they seek plausible answers that accord with whatever apparently relevant evidence they can scratch together at the time they write. The problem, their tragedy, perhaps, is that such answers don't necessarily satisfy over the long-term. Regression theory instructs us that an infinite number of curves will fit a set of discrete and discontinuous data points, i.e. when there are gaps, absences of data, between the data points that are given. And so it is with biography, and in this case so it is with D&M's two biographical studies of Darwin. Once they posited one answer, i.e. once they have fit one curve through the data they had assembled, they are satisfied for a while - until they realize that their curve doesn't really fit the data so well after all or that other curves achieve a better fit, that their first answers aren't quite so plausible or credible once they, and their critics, have subjected them to sustained scrutiny and especially after they examine heaps and heaps of evidence that they hadn't thought relevant or had time to consider when they formulated their first answer. And so they write a second book that posits a revised, and more fully satisfactory explanation - satisfying for the present, at least.So let us pity the poor, tormented biographer. A particular and relentlessly insistent curiosity compels their work, and even if they write and re-write Darwin's biography to the end of their present earthly lives and through an infinite succession of reincarnations, they will never and can never desist, because no earthly power will ever completely fill in the gaps between the data points they have, and even if some power did complete the record, even if they had a seamless recording of Darwin's stream of consciousness, and the content of his unconscious mind, they would never, ever live long enough, in this world or some other, to work through it all. Their torment, notwithstanding, I, for one, am grateful for biographical narrative of this calibre. To hell with the definitive.After p. 300I apologize in advance for additions to this review. I'm beginning to understand Virginia Woolf's comment that reading always evoked in her a compelling need to write. It turns out that I'm using Goodreads as a reading journal, and it helps because writing has always been the tool I use to come to know and clarify what I think.In any case, I feeling much less generous and accommodating after 300 pages than I felt after 235. And I will detail what strike me as D&M's egregious, outrageous and extremely annoying violations of any reasonable rules of evidence and argument that I know in preparing this biography. So annoying, in fact, that I'm tempted to formulate and explicate my own set of rules that I will apply in my reading and writing of biography - not that anyone else cares. Once again Goodreads will serve as my notebook. And my writing imposes no obligation on anyone to read.D&M's violations concern several central issues of Darwin biography: (1) What was the source of his compelling, even obsessive, drive to observe life in every form in every setting accessible to him - and in such obsessive detail? What sustained that drive to the end of his life? (2) From what existing ideas, material did Darwin draw the materials of his theory? And why those particular materials? (3) What "force" sustained his unremitting labor over thirty/forty years to the great injury to his digestive tract? (4) Why did he delay publication of even the rudiments, any intimation of his theory for at least twenty years? So I present these violations here. {Spoiler: I'll be trashing this book - no matter how beautifully D&M package their sins against credible biography.][To be continued]

  • Simon
    2019-04-22 11:18

    This is a good thorough biography of Charles Darwin, covering his whole life, in a chronological order, and divided into 7 time periods. Despite the large number of references (books, manuscripts, letters and notebooks) that takes a hundred pages, the book reads smoothly like a novel, with lots of excerpts from these references scattered all along the biography inline with the text.The strength of this biography lies also in describing the evolution of Darwin's thinking and how he linked the various puzzles from his observations, experiments, and readings to formulate his theory on the origin of the species by natural selection. It also lies in its description of the social, political and economical situation in Great Britain during the nineteenth century, and how it influenced the thinking and the very prudent behavior of Darwin in sleeping on his theory for a couple of decades before publishing it.The single drawback I've seen personally in the book is the difficulty of its style and vocabulary. Other than that, it is among the best biographies of this enlightened great scientist and man.

  • Jack
    2019-04-25 09:55

    Stephen Jay Gould was right when he described this book as "the" biography to read about Charles Darwin. For a huge book (676 pages) it's a pretty easy read; The authors have a nice flowing style. The book concentrates on Darwin's life and also the politics and social life of his day. It's not so much a scientific biography as it is a social one, which was a little disappointing for me since I wanted more about Darwin's science. There of course is plenty of science in this great book, but it's not the main focus of the authors. This was a great book to read for Darwin year (2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth) and I filled my copy up with notes and laughs with all the things I learned. Darwin becomes a full human in this book, you see his strengths and his faults and above all you see this wonderful humanizing and gentle figure emerge also as one of the greatest scientists of all time.

  • Sharon A.
    2019-04-09 06:12

    Outstanding. Beautifully written, impeccably referenced. One of the best biographies I've ever read. It provides deep and important insight into Darwin, his family, and his world at the very dawn of scientific culture. Essential reading for any scientist, science enthusiast, or historian.

  • Chris Townsend
    2019-04-20 11:20

    Excellent detailed and well-written biography.

  • Steve Kimmins
    2019-04-16 14:07

    A bit of a hero of mine. At least in terms of his dedication to the scientific method. He was just so thorough. He really didn't want to dethrone the religious outlook on creation but he just didn't have any choice in his own mind. He had to follow the evidence.This book outlines his journey in life comprehensively, from being a bit of a waster at college, through to the lucky opportunity to sail on the Beagle and then, with the good fortune of money, a life of experimentation in his garden, and communication widely with experts in biology. All leading to his big book!

  • Reenah
    2019-03-31 13:57

    Amazing biography.

  • Ania Orehek
    2019-04-18 09:03

  • Philipp
    2019-03-31 12:21

    An extremely detailed, long biography of Charles Darwin - more a social biography than a scientific one. The authors go to lengths to put every stage in Darwin's life in the context of the bigger social movements surrounding Darwin.Some other things I learned:- If you've got an earth-shattering theory, make sure that everybody respects you based on other work first; Darwin published a geological book on coral reefs, and then worked for 5 years on barnacles. You'll also need influential friends who will publicly support your theories, and fight for them.- Similar to Galileo in Feyerabend's Against Method, the war around Natural Selection wasn't won using science, but propaganda. Darwin had many scientific friends who fought his public wars for him, Thomas Huxley being at the front. I have to read a biography on Huxley, "Darwin's bulldog", next - luckily Adrian Desmond wrote on, too.- Ideas never stand alone in a vacuum. I knew before this book that Darwin's theories on natural selection are based on the already known concept of evolution, on Malthus and Lyell. This book does a great job of exhibiting all minor and major influences on Darwin's thinking.- Something I heard for the first time in this book is how precarious Darwin's health was. Psychosomatic? Crohn's disease? The book never explains it, but after every minor period of stress, Darwin either vomited or had to retreat to his bed for a week. He rarely held public speeches, preferring letters. Bad reviews could send him to bed for weeks. (On writing this I checked Google - at least one publication says he had Crohn's disease)- Back then, people had their children late in life - I remember at least one couple in the book where the mother gives birth to her first child at 38. Darwin's wife Emma gave birth to their last, tenth child at the age of 48. People say that "older" mothers are a recent trend, doesn't seem to be the case?- Darwin pioneered a few approaches for which we have fancy buzzwords now. He tracked most of the things he did, including all scores of all Backgammon games against his wife, his health - we call that Quantified Self now. On scientific questions, he tracked and kept all minor details about his work - sending out questionnaires to all parties that could possibly have anything to do with the question, which before him wasn't that common.- Science 150 years ago had a completely different model of funding. Darwin himself was mostly funded by his father, the Voyage of the Beagle was completely paid for by Dr. Darwin. Later on, Darwin's money came from farms his father bought him, living the Dickensian dream. At the beginning of Darwin's career, science was mostly done by "unemployed gentlemen scholars" (of which there is nowadays only one), but the employment model changed during his life towards what we have now, mostly government-funded.- Since the majority of this book is based on letters, I wonder how biographies of the future will work. Nowadays it's all emails, most of them in password-protected data vaults that will disappear when the hosting company (inevitably) disappears. I'd like to read scientific journals of historians a hundred years in the future - with publications such as "How to restore e-mails from the early 21st century email client, Mozilla Thunderbird".- Like many successful people, Darwin (for the longest time) didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. He had a Pokemon-like obsession with collecting bugs, the Voyage of the Beagle only happened because of luck. Reassuring if you're, like me, one of those people who for the longest time just drifted along in life.- Huxley coined "agnostic" when he got annoyed that opponents of natural selection always tried to drag the debate onto religious grounds. Haeckel (nowadays mostly known for his beautiful naturalistic paintings) coined many terms we use today in biology - "phylum", "phylogeny", and many more. The story of Haeckel, with his broken English, meeting Darwin, with his barely existing German, is one of the cutest stories in the book.Not recommended for: People who want their history cut-and-dry; this book belongs to narrative history, often describing things which the author could have no way of knowing.Recommended for: People who like to trace the development of ideas. Fans of the history of biology.

  • Mike Sutton
    2019-03-26 10:56

    This superb book uses Darwin's letters, diary, notebooks and the literature to paint an honest and detailed picture of the man - some warts an all. If someone could ever do the same for Patrick Matthew, from whose 1831 book Darwin and Wallace are newly shown in my book Nullius in Verba - Darwin's Greatest Secret to have plagiarized the discovery of natural selection then this book would take on an entirely different shade.The authors correctly and in detail make much of the reasons Darwin held off publishing and why he kept a divine creator in the scheme of things. And for this compromise he was buried in Westminster Abbey. Why then, ignoring the fact that the literature contains Matthew's own explanation (see: that he could not promote his discovery in the early and mid 19th century, does the famous atheist Richard Dawkins ignore such historical facts to rhetorically insist that Matthew should have trumpeted his 1831 book from the rooftops when it, unlike Chambers's anonymous Vestiges, and unlike Darwin's 'Origin' bravely handed God his redundancy notice in its heretical appendix? Is it not because he worships his belief in the myth of Darwin over historical realityThe top Darwinist Richard Dawkins (2010 Seeing Further: Ideas, Endeavours, Discoveries and Disputes — The Story of Science Through 350 Years of the Royal Society infamously believes that because Matthew did not trumpet his unique 1831 discovery from the rooftops that the poor sucker never knew what he had discovered. Because Desmond and Moore reveal the Victorian age was still rife with prosecutions for heresy and blasphemy. It was an age when the great threat of social and scientific ostracism hung over unorthodox science. And so it was for fear of being associated with the heretical and seditious Matthew - most surely - that Darwin and Wallace never cited him. And such profit did the church bring them both, and misery upon the latterly bankrupt Matthew and his family of unmarriageable 'shamed' daughters - who burnt all his papers and had him buried in an unmarked grave.

  • Mark Bowles
    2019-04-04 06:06

    A. Summary: This is a biographical and sympathetic study of Charles Darwin. It shows the social difficulties that surrounded the concept of evolution. B. Themes:1. This book is directed primarily to a British audience (slang terms like “crackhanded” meaning awkward are used though out). The reason is to attempt to bring new interest in Darwin among the British public. In Britain Darwinism has had no controversy from the church. In America controversy has existed since Scopes. Thus, if it was a sympathetic attempt written for an American audience it would focus on Darwin’s rational thought. But, a sympathetic attempt written for a British audience focuses on arousing interest. 2. Darwin begins in politics and ends in religion. It begins with the anarchy of the “red evolutionists” denouncing the aristocratic, priestly class. Yet, it ends with Darwin’s burial in Westmenister Abbey. One of the tasks of this book is to explain how someone holding radical views in 1839 could come to be buried in Westmenister Abbey.3. The “Devil’s Chaplain” is the central metaphor of the book. This was a term Darwin used in a letter. Darwin feared that he might become a similar outcast from society, an infidel.4. The scientific conclusions coincide with the majority of Darwin scholars. 5. The theme of Darwin’s ill-health occurs throughout the book. (And adorns the subtitle of the American cover--the life of a tormented evolutionist)C. Structure1. A thin treatment of Erasmus Darwin.2. A lengthy examination of Charles Darwin’s student days at Cambridge and Edinburgh. 3. An almost novelesque account of Darwin’s voyage.4. The post-Beagle years and a discussion of Charles moving in the Erasmus’s circle of friends. 5. Darwin’s escape from Chartist London in 1842.6. The death of his daughter in 1851 and its possible connection with his declining religious views. 7. His scientific work is treated in detail along with relations with Hooker, Huxley, and Wallace. 8. The post-Origin years examine the scientific community

  • Tom
    2019-03-27 09:15

    A wonderful book. The work the authors put into it is phenomenal and it shows in the wealth of minute detail that breathes life into the subject. It is always interesting to examine scientific undertakings because science is supposed to be so neat and objective and life is so messy. And in that respect this book does not disappoint. The book makes you want to meet Darwin and then makes you feel that you have met him.The authors do a great job of elucidating a life that was sedentary and yet full of discovery. As the title says, he was a tormented man. Although he lost faith in Christianity, his beloved wife Emma did not, and this was a cause of much anguish. It's a very human story, one that you will enjoy and learn from in this splendid book. It is a door-stopper, but don't let that make you hesitate - it is fascinating.And if you ever go to London, take the trip out to Downe, where you can visit his house.

  • Barak
    2019-04-25 10:07

    An excellent biography deserving 4.5 stars.The authors have conducted an extensive research, highlighting well Darwin's thought processes and general disposition, as well as those of some of the other major actors of this period and this context.Obviously, like in any such narrative we get a single perspective rendering for instance Darwin as good, Owen as bad, and say Whewell as mostly irrelevant. Clearly, a story involving human beings is vastly more complicated than that, and requires reading various biographies to get fuller pictures of the thoughts and feelings of different people; but that does not detract to my mind from this biography, and the onus on getting myriad perspectives is put in the final analysis, as it should be, on the erudite reader.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-13 12:57

    Part of an Amazon shopping spree I treated myself to this week, this is proving an excellent read so far. I caught Melvyn Bragg's fantastic four part radio series on Darwin on Radio 4 a few weeks ago, in which this book's co-author gave several fascinating insights, and just had to buy it. Am getting up to the part where he begins his Beagle voyage. What is so fascinating is how the authors take pains to show how Darwin's ideas were shaped, particularly with relevance to the religious turmoil over beliefs regarding the origins of man. I never really appreciated how controversial, or psychologically traumatic, it would have been for so many to have their sacrosant beliefs challenged by Darwin's work.

  • Jen
    2019-04-05 09:20

    I tried to get through this. I really did. But after reading David Quammen's Darwin biography, which was light-hearted and funny and well-written, I just can't get into this densely-packed tome. I know that I would better understand Darwin by understanding the social turmoil of his time... but it's just not good reading for the 720 bus. I'm setting it aside to read about David Attenborough's life tramping through jungles for the BBC...9/17/07: This one is going onto the "couldn't-finish" shelf as well, in favor of marine iguanas and finches.

  • Kip
    2019-03-27 11:14

    Interesting bio. I learned a lot about Darwin that I'd never known before. And the authors provided lots of interesting detail and glimpses into his personality. My only struggle with the book was that it probably gave more info than I wanted. Darwin is one of the most important scientific figures of our time, but in some places I would have preferred more summary and a less full pictire. I am a former English major, and though I have wide-ranging interests, nearly 700 pages on this topic proved a bit much. But I still liked the book and would recommend it.

  • Alex
    2019-03-31 12:15

    Great read. Authors do a masterful job of tracking the evolution of Darwin's scientific thinking with the broader changes going on in England at the time (reform movements, role of Church of England, etc). Also thoroughly captures his evolution of being a Unitarian to a potential Church clergyman to an agnostic to an (almost) atheist. Does a great job of telling the story of his life and how it was impacted by a changing society.

  • Ann
    2019-04-20 07:21

    This is an excellent biography of Darwin putting his life and work in full historical context, including the social, political and scientific debates of the times and other personages important in these. The authors draw extensively from historical documents to develop a full view of Darwin's personality, his relationships, his studies and ideas, and his intellectual and spiritual struggle. Highly recommended.

  • Kent Gerber
    2019-03-28 14:03

    This is an excellent and thorough biography of Charles Darwin. His personal life is vividly told including his many chronic illnesses of which I was not fully aware. Segmented by significant periods if his life this book helped me better understand the environment leading up to the Origin of Species and his meticulous and cautious nature. I learned that he was first known as a geologist and only established his biological credentials after a painstaking study of Barnacles.

  • Susu
    2019-04-15 12:10

    The biography delivers a broad picture from the personal life, the private thoughts, the detailed work to the scientist and his publications. The authors focus on the inner strife of the scientist fearing to overthrow society. And they give a great overview of the scientific work, all the details and facts Darwin drew on. Really THE biography to read on Darwin.

  • Shonda Wilson
    2019-04-22 12:03

    I did not think I would enjoy this book as much as I did, it was amazing and a VERY extensive with a great deal of history of the socio-economic and political strife in England at the time. Totally recommend it to anyone I know.

  • Kishwar
    2019-04-05 08:06

    tough going for the first 150 pages but picked up a lot after that...took a while to get through this but i know a lot about Darwin's life now :) I thought the style this was written in was very appropriate to the age they were writing about but was not terrible accessible.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-04-24 10:16

    Is this for real? Either way it's very funny

  • Nick Jones
    2019-04-03 08:18

    Tormented is the subtitle and the theme. And justly so.. Gripping.. Makes me want to visit downe house. And study worms.

  • Jean Monahan
    2019-04-10 12:22

    too fabulous for words

  • Gabor Hernadi
    2019-04-13 13:20

    A very through biography about one of the most important scientist ever lived. Everything you wanted to know about Darwin....

  • Robert Sutherland
    2019-04-07 10:55

    Another 19th century depressive changes human history.

  • Nate H.
    2019-04-02 09:11

    One of the best biographies I've ever read!

  • Eric
    2019-04-06 10:10

    My favorite Darwin biography.