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The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809 - 1882 with Original Omissions Restored Edited with Appendix and Notes By His Grandaughter [Hardcover]

Barlow Nora
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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5.0 out of 5 stars A mind becoming a machine to grind out general laws March 26 2004
Darwin wrote his autobiography between the ages of 67 and 73. In the publisher's introduction it is noted that Charles Darwin tells of the slow maturing of his mind. A family tree is provided. Charles Darwin was the grandson of Erasmus Darwin and the son of Robert and Emma, nee Wedgwood. His mother died when he was eight. In boyhood he had a passion for collecting.
Charles Darwin went to Dr. Butler's school in Shrewsbury until age sixteen. As a young boy he enjoyed solitary walks. Dr. Butler's school was strictly classical. He found the odes of Horace to his liking. He reports his father had excellent powers of observation. The father was a physician who hated the sight of blood but was able to divine the character of others. He possessed an extraordinary memory for dates and other facts. Charles Darwin was taught Euclid by a private tutor. Clear geometric proofs gave him intense satisfaction. As a boy Darwin enjoyed literature, Shakespeare included. Later in life he lost his pleasure in poetry. He was the cousin of Francis Galton. He once wondered why every gentleman did not become an ornithologist. He assisted his brother in chemical experiments.
Charles was sent to Edinburgh University with his brother. In his second year he met several young men fond of natural science. He attended meetings of the Plinian Society. He also went to meetings of the Wernerian Society. At Edinburgh he saw Audubon and Walter Scott. He liked shooting but was half-ashamed of his zeal.
After two years at Edinburgh in medical studies it was decided Charles should be a clergyman. He spent three years at Cambridge. He studied Euclid and Paley's NATURAL THEOLOGY among other things. He should have attended but did not the lectures of Sedgwick on geology.
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A small book which covers a range of issues unknown to those who only got a glimpse of the man Charles Darwin trough his Origin of Species book. The background for the Origin of Species is all there : the influences he got from many people on his frame of mind and on his very particular way of thinking and of experimenting with things, the convivial relationship he had with some of the greatest men of his time, Herbert Spencer included, the love of hunting he later hesitatingly abandoned, the love his sisters devoted to him and the difficult relationship he had with his authoritarian (and rich) father, rich to a point that Charles knew that he never would have to fight for his own survital,etc...
It is interesting to know, for instance, that the first answer he got from his father Robert when Charles asked for his permission to the famous Beagle voyage was a resounding NO. And amazing as it seems, Charles in no way was against his father decision. Were not for the help of his beloved uncle, brother of his father, who was very much in favor of the trip and convinced Charles'father to revert his earlier decision, the world would wait some more time for his revolutionary theory of the evolution of the species trough Natural selection of the fittest.
A very interesting book, which has value added to it by the many letters included as appendices that treat on many interesting issues of Charles' life: the so-called Butler controversy, the letters refering to the first refusal of Charles Darwins father to his Beagle voyage and many others. I am sure you will not be disappointed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Darwin enthusiasts Jan. 1 2003
Don't be put off by the rather grim portrait of Darwin that adorns this edition -and be aware that there are SEVERAL editions of the AUTOBIOGRAPHY, including a somewhat "censored" one in which Darwin's wife took out bits that she didn't like -perhaps the most interesting editions are the ones that put these bits back in but italicize or bold them so that you can get a sense of what wasn't "proper" in Emma's mind. This is by no means a definitive Life of Darwin (for that I strongly encourage you to read Janet Brown's excellent 2 part series)but it does give us a gentle portrait of Darwin as he saw himself in late middle age, and it has provided lots of grist for the historians & psychohistorians in their speculations about what Darwin felt about religion, his parents, etc. For my part it only reinforces my impression of a truly wonderful man who was constantly puzzled in a pleasant way with the diversity of life & living, and while he may have had personal demons to grapple with (don't we all?) he was still able to enjoy both his science and his friends and his family. It is primarily this enjoyment that I walk away with after reading this book. Oh yes, the grim portrait on the cover. I doubt that Darwin thought of himself like that, he was FUN, and I think he mostly HAD fun, apart from the periodic bouts with illness. My favorite "portrait" of Darwin is the fantasy picture of young Chas "hanging out" in high top sneakers that adorns Phil Darlington's too-long-out-of-print EVOLUTION FOR NATURALISTS.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable Feb. 8 2000
I enjoyed reading the autobiography. It is written in a simple and straightforward manner; the human side of the author emerges from the text clearly. Darwin was a simple man and an eminent scientist; there was nothing complex about him. He loved what he did for science and naturally wanted to be recognised for his contributions. Evolution was in the air in his time but probably not the way he presented it. He was responsible for formulating the concept of 'natural selection' which makes a whole deal of difference in the theory of evolution. As a scientist, he felt vulnerable perhaps like Newton who did not like to get embroiled in controversies and disputes with Robert Hooke and others. Newton refrained from publishing his work for a long period of time in order to avoid scientific disputes which however muddled the priority claim, later on, with Leibniz for the development of 'calculs'. Darwin hated to deal directly with similar situations such as the argument with Butler. Darwin depended on the advice of his family and friends for handling the argument with Butler. Curiously, however, a dispute on priority of developing the concept of natural selection that could have arisen with Wallace did not happen and both of them (Darwin and Wallace) stayed friends through out their lives. According to Reveal et al: "The story of interrelationship between the two men over their professional careers is one of gentlemanly: Darwin, the Country squire, living off inherited wealth and sound investments on a small estate working leisurely in the pursuit of evolution, and Wallace, the committed socialist, saved ultimately from abject poverty by Darwin and his friends who arranged a Crown pension, laboring seemingly forever in other's shadow".
REFERENCE "The Darwin - Wallace 1858 Evolution Paper", Introduction, prepared by James L. Reveal, Paul J. Bottino, and Charles F. Delviche, Mohammad A. Gill
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