The Young Charles Darwin Keith Thomson

Publication date:
01 Oct 2010
288 pages: 234 x 156 x 18mm
5 black-&-white illustrations

What sort of person was the young naturalist who developed an evolutionary idea so logical, so dangerous, that it has dominated biological science for a century and a half? How did the quiet and shy Charles Darwin produce his theory of natural selection when many before him had started down the same path but failed? This book is the first to inquire into the range of influences and ideas, the mentors and rivals, and the formal and informal education that shaped Charles Darwin and prepared him for his remarkable career of scientific achievement. Keith Thomson concentrates on Darwin's early life as a schoolboy, a medical student at Edinburgh, a theology student at Cambridge, and a naturalist aboard the Beagle on its famous five-year voyage. Closely analyzing "Darwin's Autobiography" and scientific notebooks, the author draws a fully human portrait of Darwin for the first time: a vastly erudite and powerfully ambitious individual, self-absorbed but lacking self-confidence, hampered as much as helped by family, and sustained by a passion for philosophy and logic. Thomson's account of the birth and maturing of Darwin's brilliant theory is fascinating for the way it reveals both his genius as a scientist and the human foibles and weaknesses with which he mightily struggled.

Keith Thomson is professor emeritus of natural history, University of Oxford, and senior research fellow, the American Philosophical Society. He is also the author of more than 200 scientific papers and twelve books. Thomson lives in Philadelphia.

"É a readable and very detailed account of DarwinÕs early years and the influences that shaped him." - Jim Endersby, Sunday Telegraph ÔSevenÕ, 8th February 2009

ÒThomson ably charts the concept of ÔtransformismÕÉto ultimate formulation.Ó - Jonathan Keates, The Spectator

ÒÉa subtle and scrupulous account of what Darwin learned as a young manÉand how this differed from what he was prepared, as an old sage, to admit to having been taught.Ó - Andrew Brown, The New Statesman

ÒIt has always irked me that Darwin is known by the iconic image of him as a bearded ancient being, when his world-changing ideas came to him as a virile young man. Happily, this book redresses the balance.Ó - Rowan Hooper, New Scientist