Introduced by Richard Keynes
No book has revolutionised our view of life on earth more than Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Yet its enduring popularity is testimony to the immense energy and startling simplicity with which Darwin makes his revelations.
'One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.'When first published in 1859, its central theory - that the natural order was not permanent and unchanging but a gradual process of evolution - met with fierce opposition. How dare any man challenge the concept of divine creation? But the first edition sold out within a day (it has remained in print ever since), its author was declared the most dangerous man in England, and a new era in human thought had begun. The seeds of Darwin's explosive ideas had planted themselves in his mind when, as a young scientist on a five-year voyage of exploration on board HMS Beagle, he tramped around the tropical forests of Brazil, made sketches of the fossil-packed strata of Patagonia, experienced the geological drama of the Andes, and encountered the extraordinary animal life of the Galapagos Islands. But, on his return, a fear of the probable impact of his discoveries also took root. Darwin was himself a deeply religious man and, unsurprisingly perhaps, spent twenty years in rigorous intellectual enquiry, exhaustive experiments and soul-searching before, finally, an anxiety that someone else would get there first spurred him to go public.
‘The theory of natural selection is a prime candidate for the title of the greatest idea ever to occur to a human mind’
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Review by jeromemck on 18th Mar 2013
"The book is a nice edition, marred by the absence of Darwins original figures. If you had never read this, as I had not, it is impossible to understand some of the text without the figures. Luckily ..." [read more]