Ecology Charles Darwin
by
Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0122

Introduction

Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809–19 April 1882) was a British naturalist best known for his work establishing the theory of organic evolution by means of natural selection. Based on his early training, his circle of mentors and colleagues, and most importantly the many observations that he made aboard the celebrated five-year voyage of the HMS Beagle, Darwin formulated a theory of species change he termed descent with modification through the primary means of natural selection. The first hints of this theory began to appear in 1837 and were recorded in his private notebooks, but only after over twenty years of additional research, the collection of many examples, extensive reading, and much reflection did he publish it in 1859, and then only after learning that the younger British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had independently formulated a similar understanding of species change. With the support of a small circle of colleagues, an abbreviated version of his theory was first presented, and it was then published in conjunction with Wallace in 1958. He then turned to writing what was intended to be an abstract of a planned longer series of works in support of his theory, but which became instead On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published in 1859. His scientific oeuvre is dominated by this book, but he subsequently published a number of important books that either extended or supported the theory set forth in 1859 including his reflections on human evolution set forth in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex published in 1871. Though he is best known for his theory of species change, Darwin had a number of other interests. He was a keen experimentalist, performing a series of small but elegant studies involving plants and other organisms that reflected a grasp of the complex interactions between organisms at a time when ecological thinking was only just emerging. Indeed, Darwin is considered one of the first ecological thinkers, using the phrase “economy of nature,” on multiple occasions in his On the Origin of Species. His many botanical studies as laid out in no less than six books are now considered both pathbreaking but also imaginative and crucial to laying the foundations of what is now plant evolutionary biology, plant ecology, and invasion biology, and his examination of the behavior of humans as shown in his The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals published in 1872 is considered foundational in behavioral studies and in the field called evolutionary psychology. With the help of many commentators, furthermore, his influence spread well outside scientific circles and shaped prevailing social and political views, as well as challenging belief in a purposive, anthropocentric universe.

General Overviews

Because of Darwin’s importance, and because he left behind a rich trail of documents that are now useful sources, historians of science have probably devoted more attention to him than to any other figure in the history of science. Though it often has something of a derogatory connotation, historians of science frequently speak of a “Darwin industry,” referring to the group of workers who have made Darwin’s life and work the centerpiece of their scholarly careers. Members associated with this industry routinely mine archival sources, with the goal of compiling annotated or edited collections of “Darwiniana” to be published or digitized and made available for use in scholarship, teaching, or general education. To some extent these began with the early effort to record his correspondence and the salient features of his life by his son Francis, following Charles Darwin’s death; but the Darwin Correspondence Project located at the University of Cambridge (Darwin’s former university) now forms the backbone of these efforts, as does an earlier project editing Darwin’s many notebooks. A large number of edited or annotated collections have now appeared compiling Darwin’s many letters, notebooks, or other memorabilia, and usually published by Cambridge University Press. Other scholars literally stumble onto Darwin or some aspect of his theory while pursuing other subjects, as in the case of the many studies of colonialism and imperialism that shaped Britain’s “long 19th century.” Yet other scholars are not so much concerned with Darwin or with the impact of his thinking in wider circles, but instead with the broader science devoted to understanding evolution and its many stunning manifestations, or with the way that it too was put to use in social theory or in political contexts. For these reasons it is helpful to distinguish scholarship directly on Darwin that is biographical in nature from scholarship that deals with aspects of Darwin’s life and work, or with Darwinism, or even with the general history of evolution, which includes consideration of other thinkers and their influences. Scholarly literature began to appear only around the time of the Darwin Centennial year of 1959, which generated a new wave of interest in Darwin’s life and work, as well as the history of evolutionary biology, a new discipline of research. Such works should ideally be evaluated based on the timing of their publication as well as the disciplinary methodology employed. Online resources, some encyclopedias or special companion volumes, bibliographic guides, and some general readers that include excerpts from his many works make good starting points for Darwin studies. Readers should always pay careful attention to the editions of Darwin’s works. The best edition of his On the Origin of Species remains the first, available in a facsimile edition with an introduction by Ernst Mayr, published by Harvard University Press in 1964, though Mayr’s introduction is now dated and too hagiographic in tone. A more recent facsimile annotated edition is by the field biologist James T. Costa, published by Harvard University Press in 2009. A helpful variorum edition, edited by Morse Peckham and published in 1959 by the University of Pennsylvania Press, provides a word-by-word summary or comparison of the changes Darwin made through subsequent editions. A number of special edited collections of his life and letters and notebooks are also available in published form or are available online. Darwin’s life, his travels aboard the HMS Beagle, his influence, and evolutionary science as a whole have appreciable popular appeal, so that a number of works are targeted for a wider audience, including younger readers, or may be written for a crossover audience of both scholars and members of the public. Many are reliable, well written, and may prove useful at the introductory level for readers, or for teaching, while others perpetuate a number of myths about Darwin or about the discovery of his theory.

Reference Works

In addition to James Costa’s recent annotated edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (Costa 2009), reference works are abundantly available on Darwin as well as the history of evolution. A good recent collection is Ruse 2012, which includes a large number of well-written essays that may be useful to both the scholarly and general reader. Hodge and Radick 2003 and Ruse and Richards 2009 provide additional resources: the former is a companion volume to Darwin, and the latter discusses important aspects of his On the Origin of Species. Darwin’s voluminous correspondence, his many publications (as well as his manuscripts and notebooks), portraits and a number of other images and illustrations, and memorabilia are available to the reader in a number of publications. Some of these are available in traditional print media, while many are now actively being digitized and made available for both the teacher and scholar-researcher. A number of websites may be consulted on Darwin, the most extensive of which is Darwin Online. This source includes digital editions of his many publications, manuscripts, and other materials. Yet another major resource is the online version of the Darwin Correspondence Project, which includes digital copies of his correspondence. See also the online catalogue of materials collected over the span of about fifty years in the Valentine Darwin Collection at the American Philosophical Society Library. Though now dated, Van Wyhe 2006 is a good guide to some of these digital collections.

  • Costa, James T. 2009. The annotated Origin: A facsimile of the first edition of On the origin of species. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

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    This is a facsimile edition of Darwin’s book of 1859, with detailed marginalia explaining the contents by a practicing biologist. A useful introduction to the work for the novice reader.

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  • Darwin Correspondence Project.

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    This is part of a long-standing project based in the United Kingdom to publish all of Darwin’s correspondence (to and from others). Printed volumes appear regularly, published by Cambridge University Press, covering specific intervals of time in Darwin’s life. They are now also being digitized and made available online. It includes some 150,000 items. The calendar of all this correspondence was published in 1983.

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  • Darwin Online.

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    This website is considered the most reliable and extensive resource on Darwin and his work. It includes digital editions of his many publications, manuscripts, and other memorabilia, including a number of digital images. The editorial board includes a number of distinguished scholars of Darwin and Darwin studies. See also John Van Wyhe’s brief article, Van Wyhe 2006, which offers a summation of what was available online as of 2006.

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  • Hodge, Jonathan, and Gregory Radick, eds. 2003. The Cambridge companion to Darwin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521771978Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An edited collection examining Darwin’s scientific ideas, their development and subsequent influence. The emphasis is on the theoretical aspects of Darwinism. Very strong in areas representing moral philosophy, religion, and social theory.

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  • Ruse, Michael, ed. 2012. The Cambridge encyclopedia of Darwin and evolutionary thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This hefty volume includes a large number of original essays by leading scholars on Darwin and the history of evolution to the present.

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  • Ruse, Michael, and Robert J. Richards, eds. 2009. The Cambridge companion to the “Origin of species.” Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A useful collection of essays that focus on key aspects of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Useful accompaniment to a reading of Darwin’s magnum opus.

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  • Valentine Darwin Collection. American Philosophical Society Library.

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    This is a valuable online catalogue of the rich collection of Darwin publications collected for over fifty years by the paleontologist James Valentine. It is considered an invaluable source for understanding the transfer of Darwin’s ideas on evolution as well as their reception in a global context. It is housed alongside other collections in evolution and genetics at the American Philosophical Society.

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  • Van Wyhe, John. 2006. The complete work of Charles Darwin online. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 60:87–89.

    DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2005.0128Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Summarizes the digitized collection of Darwin’s publications, including 42 volumes either written or edited by Darwin and 246 shorter publications, including articles. Also includes “canonical” secondary sources and links to related databases on Darwin and his work. Available online.

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Bibliographic Guides

Ghiselin 2009 provides a useful guide for those with a special interest in some of the classical literature in history and philosophy of science, while Smith 2009 provides a useful guide to anyone interested in Darwin literature and the cultural backdrop to Darwin and the development of his ideas on evolution. Ideally, both should be consulted for a comprehensive view.

  • Ghiselin, Michael. 2009. Darwin: A reader’s guide. Occasional Papers of the California Academy of Science 155:1–185.

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    This is a useful guide to Darwin and Darwin studies. It includes a bibliography of major publications on Darwin and by Darwin, a chronology of major events pertaining to Darwin, and helpful introductory essays by a scientist turned historian and philosopher of science.

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  • Smith, Jonathan. 2009. Darwin and the evolution of Victorian studies. Victorian Studies 51:215–221.

    DOI: 10.2979/VIC.2009.51.2.215Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Brief but useful introduction to the literature that has accumulated assessing Darwin in the context of the Victorian era. Part of a special issue of the journal commemorating the year of Darwin in 2009 that includes other essays on Darwin and Victorian studies.

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Readers

These are edited collections that include excerpts from Darwin’s key works, often with notes, timelines, and chronologies, and usually strong introductions. Some also include selections from additional writing that enable readers to appreciate Darwin’s influence on, for example, science, religion, philosophy, or social and political theories. Each reflects the interests of the editor so that readers may examine a number before deciding which to use more heavily. Appleman 2000, for example, emphasizes Darwin’s impact on intellectual history, philosophy, and religion, whereas Ridley 1987 provides standard excerpts commonly associated with Darwin’s works. Porter and Graham 1993 is especially comprehensive and useful as a companion to Darwin, while Darwin 2008 reflects the most recent view of Darwin from the perspective of a cultural historian. Compiled by one of the leading paleontologists and evolutionary theorists of the 20th century, Simpson 1982 is especially useful as a primary historical source. Interestingly, none of these readers tackles Darwin’s more ecological studies.

  • Appleman, Philip, ed. 2000. Darwin. Norton Critical Edition. 3d ed. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    Long considered a standard edition of excerpts from Darwin’s major works, with a carefully selected set of excerpts from major thinkers and their work that reflects Darwin’s influence on religion and philosophy.

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  • Darwin, Charles. 2008. Evolutionary writings, including the autobiographies. Edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Includes excerpts from Darwin’s major works, notes, and a good introduction by a distinguished cultural historian. This selection is especially good on the context of Darwin’s work.

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  • Porter, Duncan M., and Peter W. Graham, ed. 1993. The Portable Darwin. London: Penguin Press.

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    This volume includes excerpts from nearly all of Darwin’s major works with a useful introduction and some notes.

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  • Ridley, Mark, ed. 1987. The essential Darwin. London: Unwin Paperbacks.

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    Includes excerpts from Darwin’s major works, but now dated.

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  • Simpson, George Gaylord. 1982. The book of Darwin. New York: Washington Square Press.

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    This is a now dated edited collection of Darwin’s writing with an introduction and with commentary by one of the architects of the evolutionary synthesis.

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General Histories

There are a number of reliable scholarly overviews regarding the history of evolution, Darwin’s influence or the so-called “Darwinian Revolution” (see also “Darwinian Revolution”). Some have specific themes, while others are more general in nature. A number are targeted for younger readers, some are for the novice or introductory reader, and still others make for engaging or entertaining reading for broad audiences. Some are monographs, while others offer a range of perspectives, including some special collections or anthologies of a general nature. The most general, reliable, and comprehensive general history of evolutionary thought is Bowler 2009, which may be used as a background text for teaching purposes or read outside of the classroom. Another more popular overview is Larson 2004, which also showcases the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” (see also section Darwin on Trial). Although dated, Hamrum 1982 includes a collection of essays by leading scientists on Darwin’s legacy, while Kohn 1985 provides an important set of essays by historians and philosophers, some of which feature original insights based on original research. Eiseley 2009 is dated, having been originally published in 1958, but it is considered such a classic in the literature, especially for its poetic writing, that it was reissued for the 2009 anniversary year. Foundational works in the history of ideas include Lovejoy 1964, which traces the history of the idea of evolution, as well as Greene 1959, which has been reissued and retitled a number of times. Yet another useful source for the history of evolutionary thought in the context of the history of biology by a prominent evolutionary biologist is Mayr 1982 (cited under “Darwinian Revolution”). A quick and useful introduction to the importance and influence of Darwin’s ideas on subsequent understanding of evolution may be found in Provine 1982.

  • Bowler, Peter. 2009. Evolution: The history of an idea. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    This book remains the best comprehensive introduction to understanding Charles Darwin, the origins of his theory, and the broad history of evolutionary thought.

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  • Eiseley, Loren. 2009. Darwin’s century: Evolution and the men who discovered it. New York: Barnes & Noble.

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    A reissue of a classic historic overview first published in 1958 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday), by a well-known anthropologist and popularizer, with a forward by Stephen Bertman. The treatment is dated, but still valuable for the general reader.

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  • Greene, John C. 1959. Evolution and its impact on Western thought. Ames: Iowa State Univ. Press.

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    One of the first works assessing the impact of evolutionary thought, originally published under the title Death of Adam. It is now considered a classic work that has been reissued a number of times.

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  • Hamrum, Charles L., ed. 1982. Darwin’s legacy. New York: Harper & Row.

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    An anthology of essays (now dated) by leading scientists examining the legacy of Darwin and evolution, including Stephen J. Gould, Irving Stone, Richard E. Leakey, Sir Peter Medawar, Edward O. Wilson, and Jaroslav Pelikan.

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  • Kohn, David, ed. 1985. The Darwinian heritage. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    One of the best-known collections compiled on the occasion of the centenary of Darwin’s death. A good starting point for the motivated reader.

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  • Larson, Edward J. 2004. Evolution: The remarkable history of a scientific theory. New York: Modern Library.

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    This is a popular overview of the history of evolution that gives special focus to the importance of the “Scopes Monkey Trial” and considers the religious concerns surrounding evolution.

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  • Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1964. The great chain of being. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Originally published in 1936, this book set the standard for the classical history of ideas approach to the history of evolution and understanding the human’s place in the universe.

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  • Provine, William B. 1982. Influence of Darwin’s ideas on the study of evolution. BioScience 32:501–506.

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    Brief but important introduction to the importance and centrality of Darwin’s work on the subsequent study of evolution.

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Revisionist Histories

The literature available on Darwin and the history of evolution is now so rich that it has generated a host of literature that is revisionist in nature. Among the most important of these is Bowler 1988, which focuses on a number of evolutionary or transformationist theories that were popular alongside Darwin’s, as well as the more recent Bowler 2013, which is a provocative example of counterfactual history in which Darwin never existed. Brown and Fabian 2010 takes a new look at Darwin’s cultural backdrop, while Padian 2009 offers a useful demythologizing of the Darwin figure. Although not precisely a revisionist history, Peckham 1959 remains a useful essay in distinguishing Darwinism from Darwinisticism, (or what Darwin actually said in contrast to what his many commentators improperly said he said), and draws attention to the many uses of Darwin’s theory. Browne 2010 examines the changing representations of the Darwin figure in his many biographical portraits, while Lightman 2010 examines how the very early biographies of Darwin became linked to emerging nationalisms in both Britain and the United States. For understanding the reinvention of Darwin in the context of the new discipline of evolutionary biology that emerged during the period of the “evolutionary synthesis,” see Smocovitis 1999, cited under Commemorations and Celebrations. See also Smocovitis 1996, cited under Darwin and After.

Biographical Works

Charles Darwin’s life has probably been more closely studied than any other major scientist. Little of his life remains unstudied, from the details of his early life and education, to his celebrated voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, to his subsequent domestic life and his relations with colleagues, and of course the development of his theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection along with his many imaginative scientific studies (see also Darwin’s Intellectual and Social Circles; Darwin’s Scientific Work; On the Eve of Darwin and Revisionist Histories). Formal scholarly biographies of Darwin are now abundantly available and usually take the form of very long or multivolume treatises, as are more focused biographical works that explore some aspect of his life or that use Darwin as an organizational pivot to access some aspect of Victorian culture, or as a guide to contemporary understanding of the science of evolutionary biology. Some biographies of Darwin are abbreviated in nature so as to be useful for teaching purposes, while others are more popular, heavily illustrated, or meant to entertain the popular reader. The occasion of a number of important anniversary dates, such as 1909, 1959, and 2009, have served as opportunities for historical assessment and reassessment of his life and work and provide us with the opportunity to appreciate a number of “historical Darwins.”

Scholarly Biographies since 1959

Scholarly biographies of Charles Darwin began to appear around the time of the Darwin Centennial of 1959, though there were a few attempts at capturing the major features of his life and work before then (for some of the first attempts, see Lightman 2010, cited under Revisionist Histories). Some, notably Himmelfarb 1959, were highly critical in nature and motivated by the attempt to criticize the turn toward materialism and mechanistic thinking, while others, like de Beer 1964, focused more narrowly on his scientific work and bordered on the hagiographic. A number have attempted to provide a comprehensive but general portrait of Darwin, such as Brent 1981 and Clark 1984, a very general biography. Others, meanwhile, have a narrower scope, and focus instead on a given aspect, such as Darwin’s psychological state of being, his anxious personality, and his health, as in Bowlby 1990; or specifically on his geological studies (see Herbert 2005, cited under Geological Studies). Drawing on archival sources and more sophisticated historical approaches, biographies of Darwin in the early 1990s, such as Desmond and Moore 1991, saw Darwin as a creature of his age, fearful of the radical politics of his day. They offered a more nuanced historical understanding of his modus operandi, of his social and scientific networks of operation, and they emphasized the interplay of science and culture. Browne 1995 and Browne 2002 have been praised for understanding Darwin in his cultural context so well that some consider these two volumes to provide “definitive” historical portraits of Darwin. Combined with a number of additional biographical studies, the current understanding of Darwin shows us that there are in fact many “historical Darwins” (see also the section Revisionist Histories especially Browne 2010 and Lightman 2010, as well as Commemorations and Celebrations).

  • Bowlby, John. 1990. Charles Darwin: A new life. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    A comprehensive biography written by a psychologist, who examines Darwin’s complex emotional nature. Examines Darwin’s famous chronic illness and argues that his suppressed grief over his mother’s death was responsible for a lifetime of guilt and anxiousness.

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  • Brent, Peter. 1981. Charles Darwin: A man of enlarged curiosity. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    A comprehensive popular biography of Darwin.

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  • Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin: A biography. Vol. 1, Voyaging. New York: Alfred Knopf.

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    The first volume of the most recent comprehensive biography, which centers on the celebrated voyage of the HMS Beagle and culminates with the publication of Darwin’s magnum opus, On the Origin of Species, in 1859.

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  • Browne, Janet. 2002. Charles Darwin: A biography. Vol. 2, The power of place. New York: Alfred Knopf.

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    The second volume in the most recent comprehensive biography, examining Darwin’s life and work after the publication of On the Origin of Species. Includes discussion of the importance of Darwin’s work after 1859 and his growing reputation, as well as his celebrity status.

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  • Clark, Ronald. 1984. The survival of Charles Darwin: A biography of a man and an idea. New York: Random House.

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    Now dated, this is nonetheless a readable, popular portrait of Darwin.

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  • de Beer, Gavin. 1964. Charles Darwin: A scientific biography. New York: Doubleday.

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    The best known “scientific” biography that focuses on the origin and development of Darwin’s scientific work. Now considered hagiographic and sometimes read alongside Gertrude Himmelfarb’s more critical account; read together, they demonstrate early attempts by scholars from historians to scientists to gain an understanding of Darwin.

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  • Desmond, Adrian, and James Moore. 1991. Darwin: The life of a tormented evolutionist. London: Michael Joseph.

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    An engrossing and pathbreaking comprehensive biography, locating Darwin in the complex sociopolitics of his age.

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  • Himmelfarb, Gertrude. 1959. Darwin and the Darwinian revolution. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

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    One of the first modern scholarly biographies on the life and work of Charles Darwin, written by a well-known Victorianist. Examines the development of his theory, and offers an analysis of its influence on religion, morality, politics, and society. An advocate of conservative ideology, Himmelfarb is an unrepentant critic of the influence of Darwinism on Western thought.

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Abbreviated Biographies

Nearly all of Darwin’s formal scholarly biographies are long, heavily documented, and require some technical knowledge of both the scientific and secondary historical literature; they may thus prove to be challenging for the novice reader. A number of smaller, more popular versions have been written by historians, scientists, and in some cases science writers or journalists. Some are merely abbreviated versions of longer works, making them more accessible for teaching purposes, or for the more serious reader. Bowler 1990 is especially useful for teaching purposes, but Browne 2006 and Desmond, et al. 2007 provide even shorter but reliable introductions to Darwin and his work, and both are useful for teaching at lower levels. Though dated, Gregor 1966 and Olby 1967 may still be useful for the novice reader, and both Milner 1994 and Quammen 2006 are well-written and engaging popular portraits of Darwin. Darwin’s date of birth coincides with that of Abraham Lincoln; their achievements are discussed in the comparative portrait provided by Gopnik 2009, written for a general audience on the occasion of the bicentenary of their birth.

Popular or Illustrated Biographies

A number of popular, illustrated, or entertaining biographies of Darwin exist that are useful introductions to his life and work. Byrne and Gurr 2013 provides an imaginative graphic biography of Charles Darwin that resembles Miller and van Loon 1982, an earlier very popular introduction to Darwin and evolution. Eldredge 2005 includes lavish illustrations to accompany a biography of Darwin that also serves as a reliable guide to contemporary evolutionary biology, as does the older and smaller Tort 2001, which also tracks the biographical details of Charles Darwin’s life in terms of famous illustrations (for more information on Darwin and visual studies, see Visual Culture, Darwin, and Evolution). Although dated, Jonathan Howard’s brief popular biography, Howard 1982, is still useful for the novice reader, but as with Paul Johnson’s more recent brief biography, Johnson 2012, it replicates a number of myths.

Darwin’s Home and Family Life

Darwin’s family life has increasingly drawn the attention of a number of scholars who have written about his illustrious ancestors, many of whom were naturalists, including Erasmus Darwin (covered in King-Hele 1999; see also Ayres 2008, cited under Botanical Studies), while others have focused on the relationship with his overbearing father, his older brother, or his many doting sisters (see Scholarly Biographies since 1959). Darwin’s relationship with his wife, Emma, has been of recent interest, and the death of his young daughter Annie has drawn especial attention to the development of Darwin’s religious views, especially in Desmond and Moore 1991 (cited under Scholarly Biographies since 1959) and, more recently, Keynes 2001. Other scholarship examines his activities in the village community of Downe, as well as the details of his daily life at his home, Down House (see also Boulter 2009, cited under Botanical Studies). His role as “squarson-naturalist” is beautifully examined in Moore 1985 and Morris, et al. 2003. One recent provocative book, Desmond and Moore 2009, examines the Darwin family’s involvement with the antislavery movement and tries to understand subsequent Darwinian evolution in light of that cause; and least one study, Berra, et al. 2010, is scientific in nature and analyzes the extent to which the Darwin family suffered from inbreeding, given that Darwin had married his first cousin. Yet another body of literature focuses on Francis Galton, Darwin’s famous cousin, who was an outspoken advocate of eugenics (see Darwinism and Eugenics)

  • Berra, Tim M., Gonzalo Alvarez, and Francisco C. Ceballos. 2010. Was the Darwin-Wedgewood dynasty adversely affected by consanguinity? BioScience 5:376–383.

    DOI: 10.1525/bio.2010.60.5.7Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Having married his first cousin, Darwin was aware of what inbreeding might potentially mean for his family. This paper uses computational methods to calculate inbreeding coefficients for Darwin’s family. The results suggest that the family may have suffered from poor health or higher mortality because of increased homozygosity of deleterious recessive alleles.

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  • Browne, Janet. 1988. Botany for gentlemen: Erasmus Darwin and the “Loves of the Plants.” Isis 80.4: 593–621.

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    Attempts to understand, historically, the social underpinnings and assumptions of the taxonomic scheme used by Erasmus Darwin in his great poem extolling the virtues of plants. Important for understanding the Darwin family’s intellectual background.

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  • Desmond, Adrian, and James Moore. 2009. Darwin’s sacred cause: Race, slavery, and the quest for human origins. London: Allen Lane.

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    Examines the Darwin family’s thoughts and attitudes about slavery, and their strong objections to it. Explores the extent to which the development of Charles Darwin’s theoretical work was shaped by his family’s concerns with anti-slavery movements.

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  • Healey, Edna. 2001. Emma Darwin: The inspirational wife of genius. London: Headline.

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    One of the few available sources on Emma, Charles Darwin’s wife, with insights into their relationship and their family.

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  • Keynes, Randal. 2001. Darwin, his daughter, and human evolution. New York: Riverhead.

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    Written by the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, based on family notes that were associated with the death of Darwin’s young daughter Annie. Offers an analysis of the family dynamic, but also Darwin’s views on nature, evolution, and the human experience as he contemplated the death of his daughter.

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  • King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin: A life of unequalled achievement. London: Giles de la Mare.

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    Attempts a comprehensive biography of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles, based on new archival documents.

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  • Moore, James R. 1985. Darwin of Down: The evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian Heritage. Edited by David Kohn, 435–481. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Breakthrough article challenging Darwin’s reclusiveness, and examining Darwin’s many involvements in the village of Downe.

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  • Morris, Solene, Louise Wilson, and David Kohn. 2003. Charles Darwin at Down House. 3d ed. London: English Heritage.

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    Small book on Darwin’s domestic habits and life while at home. First published in 1987.

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Darwin’s Health and Illnesses

In addition to the scholarly biographies of Darwin by Browne, Desmond and Moore, and especially Bowlby (see Bowlby 1990, Browne 1995, Browne 2002, and Desmond and Moore 1991, all cited under Scholarly Biographies since 1959), a number of works focus directly on Darwin’s many physical ailments, and on his celebrated illness that consumed his most active years of scholarship. A stunning range of interpretations, frequently at odds with each other, exist, many of which are written by physicians or other health experts. Ralph Colp devotes an entire book to the subject of Darwin’s health, first written in 1977 and later amended and revised for a 2008 edition (see Colp 2008), while Browne 1998 examines Darwin’s attitudes to his own body. Adler 1959 first drew attention to Darwin’s illness and argued that he had contracted Chagas disease while in South America. One group of scholars argues for more psychosomatic explanations for Darwin’s illness, stressing his anxious personality and fears of publishing a controversial theory (see, e.g., Pickering 1974), while others examine possible disease states such as Crohn’s disease (e.g., Orrego and Quintana 2007; and see Winslow 1971 for other medical possibilities). The Crohn’s disease diagnosis was challenged by Sheehan, et al. 2008, which favors psychosomatic illness, while Smith 1990 suggests that Darwin suffered from incapacitating allergies. By far the most extensive treatment of Darwin’s illness by a physician based on medical data and historical sources is Colp 2008, which stresses the complex interplay of psychosomatic and medical causes of Darwin’s illness.

  • Adler, Saul. 1959. Darwin’s illness. Nature 184:1102–1103.

    DOI: 10.1038/1841102a0Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Introduces the idea that Darwin was suffering from Chagas disease, contracted while he was on the celebrated voyage of the Beagle.

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  • Browne, Janet. 1998. I could have retched all night: Charles Darwin and his body. In Science incarnate: Historical embodiments of natural knowledge. Edited by Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin, 240–287. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Examines Darwin’s attitude toward his bodily being and his health.

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  • Colp, Ralph, Jr. 2008. Darwin’s illness. Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida.

    DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813032313.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This is a revision and reassessment of an earlier book, To Be an Invalid: The Illness of Charles Darwin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), which was a full-fledged examination of both primary and secondary sources related to Darwin’s illnesses and his general state of health. This edition renders the illness a complex interplay of psychosomatic and medical conditions, based on more extensive medical data.

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  • Orrego, Fernando, and Carlos Quintana. 2007. Darwin’s illness: A final diagnosis. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 61:23–29.

    DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2006.0160Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examining a number of letters and correspondence, along with his autobiography, the authors conclude Darwin suffered from Crohn’s disease, mainly in his upper small intestine.

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  • Pickering, George. 1974. Creative malady: Illness in the lives and minds of Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Proust, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. London: George Allen and Unwin.

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    Chapter 5 (pp. 70–98) is devoted to Darwin’s illness, which was characterized as a psychoneurosis stemming from Darwin’s concerns with how society would perceive his controversial theory. Offers a novel interpretation that his illness protected him from too much social intercourse, and includes a useful survey of literature available to 1974.

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  • Sheehan, William, William H. Meller, and Steven Thurber. 2008. More on Darwin’s illness: Comment on the final diagnosis of Charles Darwin. Notes and Records of the Royal Society 62:205–209.

    DOI: 10.1098/rsnr.2007.0008Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Questions the “final diagnosis” of Crohn’s disease without exhumation of the body. Suggests Darwin’s constant retching and sea-sickness is more consistent with psychosomatic illnesses.

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  • Smith, Fabianne. 1990. Charles Darwin’s ill health. Journal of the History of Biology 23:443–459.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00136378Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Suggests that allergies were the cause of Darwin’s ill health.

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  • Winslow, John H. 1971. Darwin’s Victorian malady: Evidence for its medically induced origin. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

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    Challenges psychological explanations for Darwin’s poor state of health, and examines the many medical treatments Darwin undertook.

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Voyage of the Beagle

In addition to a number of edited and abbreviated versions of Darwin’s journals and correspondence that were either written during the trip or that reflect on his experiences while on the HMS Beagle, a number of books have been produced with handsome illustrations to delight scientific, historical, and popular audiences. The best known of these is Moorhead 1969, which includes a number of beautiful illustrations; and though dated, Dibner 1964 offers a offers a brief account that includes some of the original illustrations. Keynes 2003 offers an especially entertaining account of the voyage, with full illustrations, while Gribbin and Gribbin 2004 offers yet another perspective on the voyage in a biography of Captain FitzRoy, the leader of the expedition. Original scholarship on the topic of the voyage of the Beagle includes a provocative and important reassessment, in Sulloway 1982, of the extent to which the voyage of the Beagle actually shaped Darwin’s subsequent theory. Sulloway 2009, meanwhile, reinforces this earlier view by reconstructing Darwin’s precise visitation trail in the Galapagos using modern GPS technology and a close examination of historical sources. Grant and Estes 2009 offers a detailed account of Darwin in the Galapagos and assesses the importance of the distribution of plants and animals on islands in Darwin’s thinking. (For more on the Galapagos and Darwin’s travels see also the sections Geological Studies, Zoological Studies, Biogeography, and Darwin and Ecology.)

  • Dibner, Bern. 1964. Darwin of the Beagle. New York: Blaisdell.

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    One of the first brief accounts assessing the importance of the Beagle voyage on Charles Darwin. Includes some of the original illustrations.

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  • Grant, K. Thalia, and Gregory B. Estes. 2009. Darwin in the Galapagos: Footsteps to a new world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Offers a well-illustrated account of the importance of the Galapagos islands in Darwin’s thinking. Includes special emphasis on islands and the importance of biogeography in Darwin’s theorizing.

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  • Gribbin, John, and Mary Gribbin. 2004. FitzRoy: The remarkable story of Darwin’s captain and the invention of the weather forecast. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Offers historical understanding of the notoriously unstable Robert FitzRoy, the captain of the HMS Beagle, who was a devoted public servant and one of the first meteorologists.

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  • Keynes, Richard. 2003. Fossils, finches, and Fuegians: Darwin’s adventures and discoveries on the Beagle. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A popular and engaging account of the famous Beagle voyage, relying on Darwin’s own account and on that of Captain Robert FitzRoy. Includes many original illustrations by onboard artist Conrad Martens.

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  • Moorhead, Alan. 1969. Darwin and the Beagle. London: Hamish Hamilton.

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    Handsomely illustrated popular account of Darwin and the voyage of the HMS Beagle.

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  • Sulloway, Frank. 1982. Darwin’s conversion: The Beagle voyage and its aftermath. Journal of the History of Biology 15:325–396.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00133143Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Assesses the extent to which Darwin’s experiences aboard the HMS Beagle shaped his subsequent thinking on the origin of species.

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  • Sulloway, Frank. 2009. Tantalizing tortoises and the Darwin- Galápagos legend. Journal of the History of Biology 42:3–31.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10739-008-9173-9Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Uses satellite maps, GPS technology, and Darwin’s own notebooks to track precise locations of places that Darwin visited on his visit to the volcanic islands and where he made crucial observations on the tortoises. Provides evidence reinforcing the view that Darwin turned to transformationist thinking after his return to London.

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Commemorations and Celebrations

Darwin is such a major figure that he has been the subject of a number of special commemorations and celebrations, usually at crucial anniversary years of his birth or death, or of the publication of his great works, such as On the Origin of Species. A number of scholars have examined these events in the context of scientific, disciplinary, institutional, sociopolitical, and national contexts. Read as a whole, they offer perspectives on how interpretations of Darwin and his importance vary over time, and how Darwin and his life story have been put to use for a stunning range of purposes. Benson and Parnes 2009 offers a general review of the available literature, while Browne 2005 offers a general overview of what these commemorations reveal about the reception of Darwin. For a historical account of Darwin’s famous burial service in Westminster Abbey, see Moore 1982, and for the 1909 anniversary commemoration, which assessed Darwin at the turn of the century just after the “rediscovery” of Mendel, see Richmond 2006. For a comprehensive historical account of the biggest celebration on Darwin in 1959, held at the University of Chicago, see Smocovitis 1999, which examines the celebration in the context of the new discipline of evolutionary biology in the period following the “evolutionary synthesis,” and looks at how organizers tried to unify anthropology with evolutionary biology. The volume also examines the “reinvention” of the Darwin figure and the popular response to Darwin and Darwinism and its effects on galvanizing creationist movements (see also Reception of Darwin and Darwinism).

  • Benson, Keith, and Ohad Parnes. 2009. Commemorating Darwin: The 2009 edition. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 31:147–160.

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    Provides a useful overview of the history of commemorative events surrounding Darwin and reflections on the 2009 “edition” of Darwin and the importance of his work.

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  • Browne, Janet. 2005. Commemorating Darwin. British Journal for the History of Science 38:251–274.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0007087405006977Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Offers an overview of commemorations in honor of Darwin.

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  • Moore, James R. 1982. Charles Darwin lies in Westminster Abbey. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 17:97–113.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.1982.tb02016.xSave Citation »Export Citation »

    Original paper examining Charles Darwin’s funeral service and burial in Westminster Abbey.

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  • Richmond, Marsha L. 2006. The 1909 Darwin celebration: Reexamining evolution in the light of Mendel, mutation and meiosis. Isis 97:447–484.

    DOI: 10.1086/508076Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines the 1909 Darwin anniversary at Cambridge in the context of the new science of genetics and the way in which many of Darwin’s detractors strove to capitalize on the occasion to promote genetics.

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  • Smocovitis, Vassiliki Betty. 1999. The 1959 Darwin Centennial in America. Osiris 14:274–323.

    DOI: 10.1086/649311Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A comprehensive study of the 1959 celebrations surrounding the 100th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the 150th anniversary of his birth in the context of the modern synthesis of evolution, the new discipline of evolutionary biology, and the Darwin Centennial at the University of Chicago, which featured a special emphasis on anthropology. Its galvanizing effect on the nascent creationist movement is also included, as is the “reinvention” of the historical Darwin.

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On the Eve of Darwin

A number of studies have examined the many forerunners to Darwin, most of whom upheld transformationist theories of various kinds, or else anticipated natural selection in some form. Many of these are biographies or are biographical in nature, while others have a national, regional, or institutional perspective. Still other studies have focused on the intellectual, philosophical, or cultural politics that set the stage for Darwin and his theory, or that fundamentally shaped all or part of Darwin’s thinking (see also Specific Influences on Darwin and His Theory, and Origin and Development of Darwin’s Theory)

Forerunners of Darwin

Arguably, proto-evolutionary thinkers may be found in ancient Greece, but for the most part the forerunners of Darwin generally date back to the Enlightenment, which introduced the notion of “progress.” Relevant but dated general works on the forerunners of Darwin include Glass, et al. 1959, as well as the more recent, and popular, account of Stott 2012. The best accounts of the forerunners of Darwin may be found in the fine scholarly biographies of his famous predecessors. Roger 1997 offers a fine intellectual biography of Buffon, one of the first advocates of progress, and Burkhardt 1995 offers a fine biography of Lamarck, arguably Darwin’s most famous, but misunderstood, predecessor. For another account of a number of French figures, including Lamarck, see also Corsi 1988a. Corsi 1988b is a scholarly biography of the mathematician and Anglican priest Baden Powell that focuses especially on the development of Darwinian thinking in the religious cultural politics of England. The reception of the work of controversial transmutationists like Robert Chambers is explored in Secord 2000, which also offers a novel approach to understanding the way in which proto-evolutionary theories were received by diverse publics.

  • Burkhardt, Richard W. 1995. The spirit of system: Lamarck and evolutionary biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    The most reliable and comprehensive biographical study of one of the first transformationist thinkers, which gauges his eventual contributions to evolutionary theory.

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  • Corsi, Pietro. 1988a. Evolutionary theories in France, 1790–1830. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    A classic work examining a cluster of proto-evolutionary thinkers in France to show how much they had anticipated and debated aspects of evolutionary theory now associated with Darwin and his circle of followers. Corsi also maintains a website on Lamarck that features a number of publications and materials related to him and his contemporaries.

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  • Corsi, Pietro. 1988b. Science and religion: Baden Powell and the Anglican debate, 1800–1860. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511598494Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An intellectual biography of Baden Powell, more generally known as the founder of the Boy Scout movement, and Anglican intellectual circles predominantly at Oxford University, and how they formulated proto-evolutionary theories against the backdrop of shifting social and political contexts.

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  • Glass, Bentley, Owsei Temkin, and William L. Straus Jr. 1959. Forerunners of Darwin 1745–1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    Valuable collection assessing the many proto-evolutionary thinkers and predecessors that laid the groundwork for Darwinian evolution. Emphasis is on the history of ideas.

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  • Roger, Jacques. 1997. Buffon: A life in natural history. Translated by Sarah Lucille Bonnefoi. Edited by L. Pearce Williams. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    A comprehensive intellectual biography of Buffon, one of the many naturalists who entertained tranformationist theories of organic change.

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  • Secord, James A. 2000. Victorian sensation: The extraordinary publication, reception, and secret authorship of Vestiges of the natural history of creation. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Focuses on the readers and audience for Robert Chambers’s anonymously published treatise that sensationalized the study of natural history and introduced popular audiences to transformationism in Victorian England.

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  • Stott, Rebecca. 2012. Darwin’s ghosts: The secret history of evolution. New York: Random House.

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    A popular introduction to the group of thinkers who had evolutionary or proto-evolutionary ideas preceding Darwin.

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Contexts of Darwin, Evolution, and On the Origin of Species

This body of literature focuses on a particular background setting or context in the development of Darwinian evolution. Though dated, Irvine 1955 locates Darwin in the Victorian context and is still engaging reading. Building on this, Conlin 2014 offers a more recent account of Darwin and the Victorians. Richards 2002 attempts to understand the origin of Darwinian thinking in German Romantic biology, while Desmond 1989 focuses primarily on the political context of Darwinian thinking, and on the influence of a group of social reformers who were active in the circles of natural history and medicine and who shaped the backdrop of Darwinian thinking. Yet another account, in Rudwick 1985, offers historical understanding of the science of geology in the 19th century with an eye to understanding the manner in which gentlemen-scientists interacted with each other and, most importantly, negotiated conflicts in scientific understanding between themselves.

  • Conlin, Jonathan. 2014. Evolution and the Victorians: Science, culture and politics. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

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    An engaging exploration of the Victorian context of evolutionary thinking.

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  • Desmond, Adrian. 1989. The politics of evolution: Morphology, medicine, and reform in radical London. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Examines British radical reformers and how their views shaped natural history and medical practice in the interval of time immediately preceding Darwin, and locates the origin of Darwinian theory in that sociopolitical milieu.

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  • Irvine, William. 1955. Apes, angels and Victorians. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    A classic historical exploration of Darwin, Huxley, and the Victorian milieu against which evolutionary theory unfolded.

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  • Richards, Robert J. 2002. The Romantic conception of life: Science and philosophy in the age of Goethe. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226712185.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Final chapter (pp. 511–554) attempts to locate Darwin and his theory in the context of German Romantic biology and philosophy.

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  • Rudwick, Martin. 1985. The great Devonian controversy: The shaping of scientific knowledge among gentlemanly specialists. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Provides the reader with the backdrop of geological thinking and practice in Darwin’s age, but also provides a rich account of the way in which gentleman-scientists negotiated conflicts and controversies over accounts of natural history.

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Darwin’s Intellectual and Social Circles

A number of people were associated with Darwin, either as mentors, special friends and colleagues, or advocates and promoters. Darwin also had a number of formidable rivals who also served as critics. Especially noteworthy were members of a small circle of Darwin’s close friends and allies who became closely associated with his ideas and with their promotion. A number of scholarly works have appeared that provide us not only with biographical details about these individuals, but also provide additional insights into the origin and development of Darwin’s own ideas as well as their promotion and reception (see also Reception of Darwin and Darwinism).

Darwin’s Mentors, Friends, and Contemporaries

Darwin’s life and work were shaped by a number of mentors at Cambridge, including the botanist John Stevens Henslow, who facilitated his participation in the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Walters and Stow 2001 offer a biographical portrait of Henslow with an eye to showcasing his influence on the young Charles Darwin (see also Botanical Studies). McCalman 2009 examines how travel abroad shaped the scientific work associated not only with Darwin, but also with his closest intellectual circle, which included Thomas Henry Huxley, Joseph Hooker, and Alfred Russel Wallace (see also the section on Darwin and Wallace). A number of other works focus on his intellectual circle of friends and supporters, the most prominent of whom was Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog.” Desmond 1997 offers an engaging comprehensive biography on Huxley, while Lyons 1999 offers a biographical portrait with an emphasis on his scientific work. Endersby 2008 concentrates on the botanist Joseph Hooker, one of Darwin’s confidantes, with an eye to examining systematic botany and the emphasis on collections in the context of the British Empire. The classic biography of Asa Gray, Dupree 1959, remains a reliable and readable biography of Darwin’s best-known American advocate and promoter, while Richards 2008 offers an equally readable biography of Ernst Haeckel, Darwin’s advocate and promoter in Germany, while also discussing Haeckel’s own theories in embryology, and his famous coining of the term “oecologie” for what would become the new science of the environment. Though his influence on Darwin and the extent to which they drew from each other remains a lively topic of discussion, Herbert Spencer was nonetheless a towering figure in the intellectual landscape of the 19th century, and his views are inextricably linked to Darwin’s. Francis 2007 offers a comprehensive portrait of the great 19th-century social theorist with an eye to understanding how his ideas shaped modern life. Yet another figure associated with Darwinism, and its relations to social Darwinsm and eugenics is Francis Galton who also happened to be Darwin’s cousin (see Darwinism and Eugenics).

  • Desmond, Adrian. 1997. Huxley: From devil’s disciple to evolution’s high priest. New York: Basic Books.

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    Offers a full-scale biography of Thomas Henry Huxley, one of Darwin’s fiercest advocates and friends.

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  • Dupree, A. Hunter. 1959. Asa Gray, 1810–1888. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    This classic biography of America’s premiere systematic botanist is still a useful source for understanding the dissemination of Darwin’s ideas in the United States.

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  • Endersby, Jim. 2008. Imperial nature: Joseph Hooker and the practices of Victorian science. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Focuses on the history of botanical collections and their curation at places like Kew Gardens, associated with the systematic botanist Joseph Hooker, who was one of Darwin’s closest friends and confidantes.

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  • Francis, Mark. 2007. Herbert Spencer and the invention of modern life. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    An impressive intellectual biography of Herbert Spencer, one of the towering figures of the 19th century, whose ideas were frequently associated with Darwin. Meticulously researched, it draws on archival documents and Spencer’s many publications to argue that Spencer’s ideas and influence have been greatly misunderstood.

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  • Lyons, Sherrie L. 1999. Thomas Henry Huxley: The evolution of a scientist. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.

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    Offers a biographical portrait of one of Darwin’s friends and most famous advocate, focusing especially on his scientific work, his career, and on the controversies that involved his work.

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  • McCalman, Iain. 2009. Darwin’s armada: Four voyages and the battle for the theory of evolution. New York: Norton.

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    A popular examination of how the voyages of exploration undertaken by Darwin, Hooker, Huxley, and Wallace shaped the understanding of evolution in the late 19th century. It also examines the relations between them.

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  • Richards, Robert J. 2008. The tragic sense of life: Ernst Haeckel and the struggle over evolutionary thought. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226712192.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A comprehensive biography of Ernst Haeckel, one of Darwin’s greatest advocates and promoters in German contexts and the first to coin the term “oecologie.”

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  • Walters, S. M., and E. A. Stow. 2001. Darwin’s mentor: John Stevens Henslow, 1796–1861. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A professor of botany at Cambridge, John Stevens Henslow was one of Darwin’s most influential mentors. This is a comprehensive biography of Henslow focusing on his career, his tutelage of Darwin during the years 1829–1831, and their subsequent relationship before and after the publication of Darwin’s theory.

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Darwin’s Critics

Darwin’s work drew the negative attention of a number of critics who objected to aspects of his theory (see also Reception of Darwin and Darwinism, as well as Darwin, Philosophy, Morality, and Religion). In England, some of his views on evolution were opposed by Richard Owen, the famed anatomist, who was confronted directly by Darwin’s advocate Thomas Henry Huxley. In the United States, his leading opponent was Louis Agassiz, the Harvard-based Swiss immigrant naturalist. Both have been examined in comprehensive biographies. Rupke 1994 is a superb biography of Owen, while Cosens 2009 offers a focused account of the debate between Owen and Huxley. Irmscher 2013 examines Agassiz’s influence on the trajectory of American science, while Lurie 1960 provides a reliable if somewhat dated biographical account. Teller 1947 offers yet another dated account of Agassiz’s influence on American science on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of his arrival in America. A somewhat dated, but still useful biography of the zoologist St. George Jackson Mivart, one of his best-known critics, is provided by Gruber 1960, which introduces a discussion of Mivart’s objection to Darwin’s theory and its inadequacies in explaining the origin of complex structures such as the eye.

  • Cosens, Christopher E. 2009. Owen’s ape and Darwin’s bulldog: Beyond Darwinism and creationism. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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    Compact account of the famous debate between Richard Owen and Thomas Henry Huxley.

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  • Gruber, Jacob. W. 1960. A conscience in conflict: The life of St. George Jackson Mivart. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    This is an older but still useful biography of one of Darwin’s best-known critics.

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  • Irmscher, Christoph. 2013. Louis Agassiz: Creator of American science. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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    Comprehensive biography of the geologist and critic of Darwin, Louis Agassiz, assessing the many contributions and contradictions in his personal and scientific life and his important influence in shaping American science.

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  • Lurie, E. 1960. Louis Agassiz: A life in science. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Classic comprehensive study of the Harvard-based geologist Louis Agassiz, who served as one of Darwin’s many scientific critics, but whose influence on American natural history in the 19th century was profound.

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  • Rupke, Nicholaas A. 1994. Richard Owen: Victorian naturalist. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    An impressive scientific biography of a major but misunderstood figure in 19th-century natural history, who helped found the Natural History Museum but was reviled by Thomas Henry Huxley and other members of Darwin’s circle. This book was subsequently revised and abbreviated and published in 2009 under the title Biology without Darwin by the University of Chicago Press.

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  • Teller, James David. 1947. Louis Agassiz, scientist and teacher. Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press.

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    A celebratory account of Agassiz’s influence on American science on the occasion of the centennial of his arrival in America.

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Darwin’s Scientific Work

Unsurprisingly, Darwin’s diverse studies in natural history have drawn the greatest attention by a wide range of scholars, including historians, philosophers as well as scientists. Some of this scholarship is more narrowly technical in nature and determined by the specifics of his work, perhaps focusing on particular taxonomic groups of organisms, the formation of coral reefs, or understanding the distribution of animals and plants. Other work concentrates on varied causal influences in shaping the development of his theory as well as the structure of his argument. The available works are extensive and can be found in a broad range of literature, ranging from brief articles published in scientific journals that are very specific, technical, and presentist in nature, to large comprehensive historical monographs and books.

The “Darwinian Revolution”

The “Darwinian Revolution” is one of the most common phrases associated with the work of Charles Darwin, the origins of his theory, and the impact it—and he—had on the intellectual and cultural milieu. It is usually associated with a focus on his theory, and on his scientific oeuvre. The long-standing classic is Ruse 1999, which examines the origins of and backdrop to Darwin’s theory and analyzes its emergence and structure as a consilience of inductions, or a theory that relied on multiple lines of evidence that linked up to form a powerful explanatory theory. Ghiselin 1969 also examines Darwin’s complex methodology and philosophy of science, as well as the nature of his “genius.” Yet another book in this generalist genre is Oldroyd 1980, which provides a useful overview of the impact of Darwinian thought in the history of science. The Darwinian Revolution also forms the backbone of Mayr 1982, a lengthy synthesis of the history of modern biological thought that emphasizes the centrality of Darwin’s theory, written by one of the experts in 20th-century evolutionary biology.

  • Ghiselin, Michael T. 1969. The triumph of the Darwinian method. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Historical portrait of Darwin’s “genius” and the development of his scientific work.

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  • Mayr, Ernst. 1982. The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution, and inheritance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    An enormous synthetic work of intellectual history, placing Darwin’s theory at the center of modern biology.

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  • Oldroyd, David R. 1980. Darwinian impacts: An introduction to the Darwinian revolution. Milton Keynes, UK: Open Univ. Press.

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    A useful overview of the influence and impact of Darwin and his theory.

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  • Ruse, Michael. 1999. The Darwinian revolution: Science red in tooth and claw. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Explores the historical origins and development of Darwinian theory, and examines its philosophical underpinnings in terms of a consilience of inductions. Comprehensive overview of Darwinism and its subsequent impact. A classic book on the Darwinian Revolution. First published in 1979.

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Specific Influences on Darwin and His Theory

In addition to his mentors and friends, Darwin’s theory was informed by a number of other individuals, social circles, or specific practices. A body of literature explores some of these influences. Though it is now discredited, for the most part, Eiseley 1979 offers a provocative argument that Darwin appropriated work from other naturalists of his day. Other scholarship, such as Manier 1978, focuses on the earlier, formative period of Charles Darwin’s life and offers a literary and rhetorical analysis of influences that may have shaped Darwin’s thinking, writing, and mode of expression. Thomson 2009, meanwhile, focuses more closely on scientific influences on the young Charles Darwin. Still other scholarship, such as Rudwick 1982, examines the public contexts of Darwin’s work, including his many interactions with other scientists of his day. Secord 1985 offers a novel twist by exploring Darwin’s many productive interactions with pigeon fanciers and practical breeders, and how their work informed his thinking of what has come to be called “artificial” selection.

  • Eiseley, Loren. 1979. Darwin and the mysterious Mr. X: New light on the evolutionists. Edited by Kenneth Heuer. New York: E. P. Dutton.

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    Posthumously edited collection of writings by the anthropologist Loren Eiseley, reprinting his contentious paper of 1959, along with the writings of Darwin’s fellow naturalist Edward Blyth, arguing that Darwin appropriated Blyth’s view of natural selection and failed to give him credit. The work is now generally discredited by scholars, who point to lack of evidence in support of Eiseley’s assertions.

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  • Manier, Edward. 1978. Young Darwin and his cultural circle: A study of influences which helped shape the language and logic of the first drafts of the theory of natural selection. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-9797-4Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Especially concerned with the active years of Darwin’s thinking between 1837 to 1944, when he derived his theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection. Traces the origin and development of Darwin’s ideas, through a close reading of various texts, to the “cultural circle” of people who surrounded him at a critical interval of time.

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  • Rudwick, Martin J. S. 1982. Charles Darwin in London: The integration of public and private science. Isis 73:186–206.

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    Examines both the public and private scientific work that led to the origin of Darwin’s theory of descent with modification. Offers a novel visual map and detailed explication of the many scientific interactions Darwin had during the formative London years shortly after his return from the voyage of the Beagle, especially with contemporaries in varied geological circles.

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  • Secord, James A. 1985. Darwin and the breeders: A social history. In The Darwinian Heritage. Edited by David Kohn, 519–542. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Novel work examining the influence of breeding practices in Victorian England and how they shaped Darwin’s understanding of artificial selection.

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  • Thomson, Keith. 2009. The young Charles Darwin. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    An accessible and easy-to-read book that examines the early, formative years of Charles Darwin’s schooling, training, and theorizing. Strong in setting the scientific backdrop to Darwin’s mature work.

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The Origin and Development of Darwin’s Theory

The origin and development of Darwin’s theory has been especially well studied by a preceding generation before the one actively writing history of ideas and philosophers of science. It has formed the backbone of understanding for Darwin studies. One of the most important of these studies, which laid the groundwork for subsequent understanding, is Ospovat 1981. More focused in nature is Sloan 1986, which locates Darwin’s theory in German biological thought, as well as Richards 1992, which also delves into the German context of theorizing to locate Darwin’s theory in embryology. Hodge 2008 and Hodge 2009 include detailed discussions of the development and structure of the argument set forth in Darwin’s theory, while Kohn 1996 examines the origins of the theory in prevailing aesthetic movements. Gale 1982 offers a classic historical reckoning of the way that Darwin employed expert knowledge and mustered evidentiary support for his argument, while Oldroyd 1984 offers a useful literature review on the backdrop to Darwin’s formulation of this theory.

  • Gale, Barry G. 1982. Evolution without evidence. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press.

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    Examines the reasons for Darwin’s publication “delay” for some twenty years, and argues that inadequate evidence was responsible for it. One of the first books to explore Darwin’s personal style as “scientist-manager” and his mode of recruitment of experts like Hooker, and of assistants and helpers to his project—people who would supply him with an evidentiary base to fortify his argument.

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  • Hodge, M. J. S. 2008. Before and after Darwin: Origins, species, cosmogonies, and ontologies. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

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    This is the first of two volumes that includes the published papers of M. J. S. Hodge, the most important of which, titled “The Structure and Strategy of Darwin’s ‘Long Argument,’” offers an analysis of the vera causa principle applied to the structure of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

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  • Hodge, M. J. S. 2009. Darwin studies: A theorist and his theories in their contexts. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

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    This is the second volume of the collected papers of M. J. S. Hodge. This selection includes a number of important papers, the most notable of which is “Darwin as Lifelong Generation Theorist” (pp. 207–243).

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  • Kohn, David. 1996. The aesthetic construction of Darwin’s theory. In The elusive synthesis: aesthetics and science. Edited by George Tauber, 13–48. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-1786-6Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Provocative article that closely examines metaphors like “the entangled bank,” and locates their point of origin in engagements with aesthetic movements as a way of comprehending the origin of Darwin’s argument in his On the Origin of Species.

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  • Oldroyd, David R. 1984. How did Darwin arrive at his theory? The secondary literature to 1862. History of Science 22:325–374.

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    A useful review of the literature that examines the origins and development of Darwin’s theory.

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  • Ospovat, Dov. 1981. The development of Darwin’s theory: Natural history, natural theology, and natural selection, 1838–1859. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    An influential historical examination of the origin and development of Darwin’s ideas, drawing on morphology, embryology, paleontology, biogeography, and classification. One of the first works to examine the presentation strategy in Darwin’s Origin. A classic of the Darwinian literature.

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  • Richards, Robert J. 1992. The meaning of evolution: The morphological construction and reconstruction of Darwin’s theory. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226712055.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines Darwin’s views of progressive evolution and locates the origin of Darwin’s theorizing in embryology. Includes some discussion of the influence of German Romantic thinkers on Darwin’s early theorizing.

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  • Sloan, Phillip R. 1986. Darwin, vital matter, and the transformism of species. Journal of the History of Biology 19:369–445.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00138286Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Locates Darwin’s biological thinking in the context of German biological theorizing about the matter of life. Argues Darwin was a sophisticated biological theorist, and not just a geologist.

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Geological Studies

Darwin’s only formal scientific training was in geology, a science that continued to occupy his interests and to inform his many insights. A rich body of literature exists examining how theories of the earth, the fossil record, or other geologists shaped Darwin’s thinking. The most comprehensive and reliable study examining Darwin as a geologist is Herbert 2005. Darwin’s early training in geology with Adam Sedgwick and their trip to North Wales, where Darwin learned so much about geology, is examined in Barrett 1974. Other accounts, such as Brinkman 2010, offer focused treatments of how the fossil record of vertebrate succession based on observations while on the voyage of the Beagle may have shaped Darwin’s views on the fixity of species, while Rudwick 1974 offers an analysis of Darwin’s methodology in his famous interpretive disaster of the geological formation known as the parallel roads of Glen Roy shortly after his return from the voyage. Still other studies, such as Rudwick 2005, examine Darwin’s relationship and exchanges with leaders of the geological sciences, such as Charles Lyell, while Stoddart 1976 and Dobbs 2005 are focused on the exchanges or interactions over important geological matters such as the formation of coral reefs.

  • Barrett, Paul H. 1974. The Sedgwick-Darwin geologic tour of North Wales. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 118:146–164.

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    Examines Darwin’s geological training and experience under the tutelage of Cambridge geologist Adam Sedgwick.

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  • Brinkman, Paul. 2010. Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyage, fossil vertebrate succession, and “the gradual birth and death of species.” Journal of the History of Biology 43:363–399.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10739-009-9189-9Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Argues that Darwin was contemplating transmutationism while on the voyage of the Beagle, and that he was influenced by the fossil record of vertebrate succession in his questioning of the fixity of species.

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  • Dobbs, D. 2005. Reef madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the meaning of coral. New York: Pantheon.

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    Popular historical examination of the celebrated exchange over coral reefs between Alexander Agassiz and Charles Darwin, and how it preceded the disagreement with evolution. Offers reflections on theory-making in the Victorian context.

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  • Herbert, Sandra. 2005. Charles Darwin, geologist. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    Careful scholarly biographical study focusing on Charles Darwin’s training in geology and his subsequent geological studies. Based on meticulous examination of primary sources.

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  • Rudwick, M. J. S. 1974. Darwin and Glen Roy: A “great failure” in scientific method? Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 5:97–185.

    DOI: 10.1016/0039-3681(74)90024-7Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Important paper examining the celebrated error of interpretation Darwin made in his understanding of the geology of the parallel roads of Glen Roy.

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  • Rudwick, M. J. S. 2005. Lyell and Darwin, geologists: Studies in the earth sciences in the age of reform. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

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    Scholarly study of the importance of geological evidence in the thinking of both Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin.

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  • Stoddart, D. R. 1976. Darwin, Lyell, and the geological significance of coral reefs. British Journal for the History of Science 9:199–218.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0007087400014783Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Provides a useful introduction on why coral reefs mattered to Lyell, Darwin, and a number of geologists in the 19th century.

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Botanical Studies

The greatest number of Darwin’s book publications after 1859 were on botanical subjects that reflected the breadth of his interests, from pollination mechanisms, to plant tropisms, to the habits of carnivorous plants. His many botanical studies also demonstrated his acumen in the choice of examples to support his theory; his well-known study of orchids, for example, was designed to demonstrate as well as study adaptive processes operating in evolution. A number of these also demonstrated the special scientific skills Darwin brought to his studies in the way of crafting clever but simple experiments that he often performed in his backyard at Down House. Boulter 2009 provides a good introduction to Darwin’s botanical work, much of which was conducted at home. Another good introduction that is more technical in nature is Ayres 2008, which locates Charles Darwin’s work in a family tradition beginning with his grandfather Erasmus and ending with the work of his son Francis, whose studies in plant physiology at Cambridge are considered pioneering (for Erasmus Darwin’s botanical work, see Browne 1988, cited under Darwin’s Home and Family Life. Kohn, et al. 2005 examines the influence of Darwin’s teacher Joseph Stevens Henslow, a systematic botanist at Cambridge (see also the biography of Henslow, Walters and Stow 2001, cited under Darwin’s Mentors, Friends, and Contemporaries). Browne 1980 and Parshall 1982 offer focused analytical studies into Darwin’s botanical work and how it shaped the formulation of his theory, while Bellon 2011 offers a recent assessment of Darwin’s work on orchids. Harder and Johnson 2009 offers a fine-grained study of how Darwin’s studies of floral adaptation supported his theory, while Meyers 1982 offers a novel historical discussion of Darwin’s work on carnivorous plants.

  • Ayres, Peter. 2008. The aliveness of plants: The Darwins at the dawn of plant science. London: Pickering and Chatto.

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    First full-length comprehensive study of how multiple generations of Darwins had a fascination with the plant world and made lasting contributions to areas of plant systematics, ecology, biogeography and plant physiology. Focuses especially on the lives and botanical work of Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin, and Francis Darwin. Well researched with good references. One of the best accounts of the life and work of Francis Darwin and plant physiology at Cambridge.

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  • Bellon, Richard. 2011. Inspiration in the harness of daily labor: Darwin, botany, and the triumph of evolution, 1859–1868. Isis 102:393–420.

    DOI: 10.1086/661591Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines how Darwin’s work on orchid fertilization gave legitimacy to Darwin’s theorizing.

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  • Boulter, Michael Charles. 2009. Darwin’s garden: Down House, and the Origin of Species. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.

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    A historical examination of the many experiments that Darwin performed in his orchard, garden, and glasshouse. The focus is primarily on Darwin’s botanical studies, but it also includes reference to his many other varied studies while at home.

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  • Browne, Janet.1980. Darwin’s botanical arithmetic and the “principle of divergence,” 1854–1858. Journal of the History of Biology 13:53–89.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00125354Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines how botanical statistics informed Darwin’s nascent theory as he searched for quantitative measures.

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  • Harder, Lawrence D., and Steven D. Johnson. 2009. Darwin’s beautiful contrivances: evolutionary and functional evidence for floral adaptation. New Phytologist 183:530–545.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.02914.xSave Citation »Export Citation »

    Considers Darwin’s insights into floral evolution through a number of contemporary studies.

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  • Kohn, David, G. Murrell, J. Parker, and M. Whitehorn. 2005. What Henslow taught Darwin. Nature 436:643–645.

    DOI: 10.1038/436643aSave Citation »Export Citation »

    Offers a study of how systematic practices common in botany taught by his mentor John Stevens Henslow at Cambridge shaped Darwin’s understanding of systematics.

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  • Meyers, Dewey G. 1982. Darwin’s investigations of carnivorous aquatic plants of the genus Utricularia: Misconception, contribution and controversy. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 134:1–11.

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    Offers a close examination and rethinking of Darwin’s underappreciated studies of carnivorous plants.

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  • Parshall, Karen Hunger. 1982. Varieties as incipient species: Darwin’s numerical analysis. Journal of the History of Biology 15:191–214.

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    Important study analyzing some of Darwin’s botanical work and how it shaped his thinking of species change.

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Zoological Studies

Studies of animals, especially marine invertebrates, dominated Darwin’s early scientific career, starting with his student days at Edinburgh University, when he took field trips to examine tidal pools along the Firth of Forth with mentors like Robert Grant. The importance of these early observations is examined in Sloan 1985, a pioneering article that also examines how this work shaped the development of his later theory. Darwin both observed and collected animals (both living and fossil forms) while on the voyage of the HMS Beagle (see also Voyage of the Beagle as well as Biogeography). Darwin’s specimen lists and transcriptions of his notes are made available in Keynes 2000. The importance of “Darwin’s finches” and how they may, or may not, have played a role in the formulation of Darwin’s theory is assessed by Sulloway 1982, which is generally regarded as one of the most important papers “demythologizing” them. Darwin’s most extensive zoological studies centered on an intensive seven-year study of the systematics of barnacles, or the Cirripedia. Love 2002 offers a historical examination of this work and challenges some of the long-held assumptions that these studies were solely motivated by Darwin’s attempt to seek legitimacy as a systematist. Examining this and other work in systematics, Padian 1999 attempts to understand Darwin’s philosophy of systematics more broadly, while Stott 2004 offers a comprehensive treatment and overview of the importance of the barnacle studies. Some of Darwin’s most novel work in zoology was done at the end of his career, and on earthworms, particularly in understanding the role they play in the ecological context of soils. Stürzenbaum, et al. 2009 offer an unusual re-appreciation of Darwin’s work in light of recent work on the genomics of earthworms.

  • Keynes, Richard. 2000. Charles Darwin’s zoology notes and specimen lists from H.M.S. Beagle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Edited transcriptions of the scientific notes and specimen lists made by Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. Painstakingly edited notes with a fine original introduction by one of Darwin’s descendants.

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  • Love, Alan C. 2002. Darwin and “Cirripedia” prior to 1846: Exploring the origins of the barnacle research. Journal of the History of Biology 35:251–289.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1016020816265Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines the origins of Darwin’s interests in marine invertebrates and in barnacles in advance of his formal research on them (1846–1854). Challenges the traditional argument that Darwin spent this interval of time working on the systematics of barnacles to establish his credentials as systematist.

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  • Padian, Kevin. 1999. Darwin’s views of classification in theory and practice. Systematic Biology 48:352–364.

    DOI: 10.1080/106351599260337Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Useful article drawing on Darwin’s written work and his monographs on barnacle taxonomy to provide an overview of Darwin’s philosophy of systematics and understanding it in its own distinct terms.

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  • Sloan, Phillip. 1985. Darwin’s invertebrate program, 1826–1836: Preconditions for Transformism. In The Darwinian Heritage. Edited by David Kohn, 71–120. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Examines how Darwin’s early engagement with marine invertebrates shaped his early theorizing, leading to his mature views on descent with modification by means of natural selection.

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  • Stott, R. 2004. Darwin and the barnacle. London: Faber.

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    Historical study examining Darwin’s researches on barnacles preceding the 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species.

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  • Stürzenbaum, S. R., J. Andre, P. Kille, and A. J. Morgan. 2009. Earthworm genomes, genes and proteins: The (re)discovery of Darwin’s worms. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276:789–797.

    DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1510Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Fascinating reexamination of Darwin’s worm work in light of contemporary genomics. Leads to a new appreciation for many of Darwin’s insights and astuteness in the selection in this group of organisms.

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  • Sulloway, Frank. 1982. Darwin and his finches: The evolution of a legend. Journal of the History of Biology 15:1–53.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00132004Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Demythologizes the importance of the finches in the development of Darwin’s theory.

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Biogeography

Some of the best evidence in support of Darwin’s theory of descent with modification by means of natural selection came from biogeography, much of which was gleaned from Darwin’s travels aboard the HMS Beagle (see Voyage of the Beagle). A general overview in the early history of biogeography that is helpful to understanding the backdrop to Darwin’s use of biogeography is found in Browne 1983. A more focused examination of Darwin’s use of biogeography may be found in Richardson 1981. MacLeod and Rehbock 1994 offers a collection of original essays centering on the Pacific region, which served as a kind of laboratory for Darwin’s theorizing. This work, along with Weiner 1994 and Grant 1999, pays special attention to the finches of the Galapagos and how they figured into Darwin’s theorizing, as well as offering an understanding and appreciation of more recent work in the ecology and evolution of the group. Biogeography figured prominently in Wallace’s view of evolution, especially with respect to islands and to work that eventually led to modern conservation ecology. Good comparative perspectives on Darwin and Wallace may be found on in the many biographies and collections on Wallace (see Darwin and Wallace).

  • Browne, Janet. 1983. The secular ark: Studies in the history of biogeography. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    A historical examination of the backdrop to Darwin’s thinking on the distribution of plants and animals.

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  • Grant, Peter R. 1999. The ecology and evolution of Darwin’s finches. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Comprehensive summary of the ecology and evolution of the finches of the Galapagos in light of Darwin’s work by a prominent evolutionary biologist.

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  • MacLeod, Roy, and Philip F. Rehbock, eds. 1994. Darwin’s laboratory: Evolutionary theory and natural history in the Pacific. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai‘i Press.

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    An impressive collection of original essays on the history of natural history in Pacific contexts. Includes consideration of how the biogeography of the region shaped Darwin’s formulation of his theory, explores various sociopolitical contexts, and examines both the reception of Darwinism and its complex relations to social Darwinism in the region.

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  • Richardson, R. Alan. 1981. Biogeography and the genesis of Darwin’s ideas on transmutation. Journal of the History of Biology 14:1–41.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00127513Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Important article assessing the nature and the extent to which Darwin drew on biogeography to support his theory, and the extent to which it served to inspire it using detailed reconstruction from Darwin’s notebooks.

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  • Weiner, Jonathan. 1994. The beak of the finch: A story of evolution in our time. New York: Vintage.

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    Popular account of the importance of the Galapagos in Darwin’s thinking and how the Princeton-based research team of Rosemary and Peter Grant are presently refining our understanding of adaptive radiation of birds like finches in the Galapagos.

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Sexual Selection and Behavior

Darwin’s provocative theory of sexual selection, its relations to natural selection, and its consequences for behavior have been explored at length in book-length philosophical treatments such as Cronin 1991, which also provides a detailed examination of the differences between Darwin and Wallace on sexual selection. Kottler 1980 also explores these differences in the context of understandings of sexual dimorphism. Gayon 1998 (cited under Darwin and After) offers a detailed philosophical examination of Darwin’s and Wallace’s differing views of sexual selection and traces these views in a broad history of evolutionary theory, as does Milam 2010, a historical study of female choice in evolutionary biology that begins with a comparison between Darwin and Wallace. Bartley 1994 is a foundational paper on the fate of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection and how its understanding and acceptance were influenced by mathematical theorist R. A. Fisher. Darwin’s views on sexual selection, behavior, and what they revealed about his views of women have also been examined critically by feminist scholars in pathbreaking work such as Richards 1983 (cited under Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Darwin, and see this section as a whole for other critical responses to Darwin’s views on gender or his influence on women’s movements). Fedigan 1992 offers a good explanation of Darwin’s theory and its applications to human evolution and primatology, while Haraway 1990 offers a critical analysis of primatology through the prism of race, class as well as gender.

  • Bartley, Mary. 1994. Conflicts in human progress: Sexual selection and the Fisherian “runaway.” British Journal for the History of Science 27:177–196.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0007087400031885Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This paper tracks a critical historical episode in the history of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, namely its handling by theorist Ronald Aylmer Fisher and how he shaped biologist’s understanding for a subsequent generation.

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  • Cronin, Helena. 1991. The ant and the peacock. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A philosophical exploration of the phenomenon of altruism and sexual selection, beginning with Darwin and Wallace and continuing to the origins of sociobiology.

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  • Fedigan, Linda Marie. 1992. Primate paradigms: Sex roles and social bonds. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Offers a useful introduction to Darwin’s views of sexual selection from the perspective of a primatologist.

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  • Haraway, Donna J. 1990. Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science. New York: Routledge

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    Offers a powerful critical analysis of Darwinian sexual selection through the prism of race, class, and gender. A classic work examining the interplay of cultural studies and theories of human evolution and primatology.

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  • Kottler, Malcolm J. 1980. Darwin, Wallace, and the origin of sexual dimorphism. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 124:203–226.

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    Examines the similarities and differences in the theories proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace with respect to natural selection, sexual selection, and specifically the origins of sexual dimorphism.

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  • Milam, Erika. 2010. Looking for a few good males: Female choice in evolutionary biology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    Includes a useful historical introductory chapter (pp. 9–28) on Darwin and Wallace and sexual selection.

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Darwin and Ecology

Ecology as a science did not properly exist in Darwin’s day, nor did it properly inform his thinking. The term ecology was coined by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel only in 1866. Nonetheless, Darwin’s thinking and work is part of a rich tradition that recognized the intricate web of relations in the natural world. From the closing famous paragraph, with its metaphor of the “entangled bank,” to his metaphor of the “face of nature,” as well as to the “economy of nature,” Darwin’s Origin is rich in metaphors and examples recognizing the interactions between organisms and their environment. Many of his subsequent studies eventually inspired or informed an understanding of the science of ecology, including pollination ecology, population ecology, and conservation ecology. His botanical studies were especially important in shaping the future direction of plant ecological research (see the section on Botanical Studies). A general discussion of Darwinian thinking and the origin of ecological thinking may be found in Worster 1994, which traces Darwinian views of the “economy of nature” back to the 18th century. A more focused recent examination of Darwin’s use and understanding of the “economy of nature,” locating it in the thinking of Linnaeus and Lyell and assessing the role it may have played in Darwin’s account of divergence, can be found in Pearce 2010. Yet another more focused and technically precise overview of Darwin in the big picture of the history of ecological ideas is presented in McIntosh 1985. Stauffer 1957 provides one of the first scholarly examinations of the relationship between Darwin and Haeckel, while Stauffer 1960 offers a brief comparison between Darwin’s ecological thinking with that of Linnaeus. An interesting but dated article, Vorzimmer 1965 examines Darwin’s “anticipatory ecology” and how he failed to appreciate the significance of some of his most ecological work. Two of the best accounts assessing Darwin’s scientific contributions to the newer branches of ecology are Harper 1967, which is now a foundational article for Darwin and plant ecology, and Hayden and White 2003, which examines the origins of conservation ecology and the biology of invasive species in the context of Darwinian thinking.

Darwin and Wallace

Until fairly recently, reliable biographies of Darwin’s “co-discoverer” were scarce. Most of the scholarship centered on the relationship between the two men, the unequal status between them, the sequence of events leading to their joint publication of 1858, and the extent to which Darwin borrowed or drew on Wallace’s views of divergence. A number of perspectives have been offered suggesting that Darwin may have indeed drawn some inspiration from the younger Wallace (e.g., Beddall 1988), or that he lifted some of Wallace’s insights and that a deliberate effort was made to downplay Wallace’s contributions (Brackman 1980). Recent biographies, such as Shermer 2002, Fichman 2004, and Slotten 2006, have sorted through archival documents or analyzed published works closely, and as a result have challenged this view. They have instead focused on the unequal social status between the two as one reason that Darwin became better known, as well as the fact that Wallace also held a number of unpopular beliefs, such as spiritualism, or that he was involved with controversial political movements like anti-vaccination campaigns that may have undercut his stature. Other scholarly treatments, such as Cronin 1991, Kottler 1980, and Milam 2010 (all cited under Sexual Selection and Behavior), as well as Gayon 1998 (cited under Darwin and After), provide comparative perspectives on Darwin’s and Wallace’s views on sexual selection and natural selection. More recently, Fagan 2007 examines the different kind of field practices employed by Darwin and Wallace. Wallace’s insights into island biogeography, gleaned from his travels, was especially important to grounding modern conservation ecology. A number of Wallace’s publications, including pivotal work on island biogeography, have been reissued, including Berry 2002, which includes selections from some of his most important work along with a biographical sketch. As with Darwin, a number of important historical materials are now digitized and available online on websites such as Wallace Online.

  • Beddall, Barbara. 1988. Darwin and divergence: The Wallace connection. Journal of the History of Biology 21:1–68.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00125793Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Offers a close examination of the correspondence between Darwin and Wallace to determine the extent to which Darwin’s views on divergence were informed by Wallace.

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  • Berry, Andrew. 2002. Infinite tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace anthology. London: Verso.

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    Includes a brief biographical sketch introducing readings on the life and work of Alfred Russel Wallace, and includes a selection of readings from some of his most important writings.

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  • Brackman, Arnold C. 1980. A delicate arrangement: The strange case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. New York: Times.

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    Sensationalist account of the relationship and communications between Darwin and Wallace, setting the stage for the “conspiracy” argument that a “delicate arrangement” was made by Darwin’s elite friends and collaborators to downplay Wallace’s role as “co-discoverer.”

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  • Fagan, Melinda. 2007. Wallace, Darwin and the practice of natural history. Journal of the History of Biology 40:601–635.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10739-007-9126-8Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Offers a comparative perspective on Wallace’s and Darwin’s theories by examining the different kinds of routines and field methodologies they practiced.

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  • Fichman, Martin. 2004. An elusive Victorian: The evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A full-scale biographical treatment of Alfred Russel Wallace, examining his checkered career and the special challenges that he encountered. It also places emphasis on understanding Wallace’s complex and often unorthodox beliefs and politics in the latter half of the 19th century, and how these may have hindered Wallace’s acceptance in scientific circles.

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  • Shermer, Michael. 2002. In Darwin’s shadow: The life and science of Alfred Russel Wallace; A biographical study on the psychology of history. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Uses Wallace to get at a psychological or a social science view of history. Central chapters provide useful insights on Wallace and a comparison of Wallace and Darwin.

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  • Slotten, Ross A. 2006. The heretic in Darwin’s court: The life of Alfred Russel Wallace. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    Biographical study on the controversial nature of Alfred Russel Wallace’s beliefs and how his views departed from Darwin.

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  • Wallace Online.

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    This is a website that includes digital versions of a range of Wallace materials.

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Darwin, Philosophy, Morality, and Religion

Darwin raised the hackles of a number of individuals who did not like his methodology, did not think it properly scientific, and who in turn denigrated his theory. Some also thought he failed to provide direct evidence in support of his theory in general, and of natural selection in particular. Darwin had only imaginary illustrations of it in 1859, and the best evidence in support of his theory was from biogeography, which happened to be indirect. Darwin’s reliance on natural selection was also deeply troubling to some scientists, philosophers, and theologians, who recognized the fundamental challenge to a purposive, teleological, and progressive view of the world. In the 20th century, such objections culminated with the emergence of powerful anti-evolution movements, especially in the United States or where Protestant fundamentalism prevailed. A deep and extensive body of literature is dedicated to exploring aspects of Darwin’s ideas and to Darwinism in the context of 19th-century philosophy; philosophy of science; the intersection of philosophy, morality, and religion; or the philosophical or metaphysical consequences of Darwinism.

Darwin, Nineteenth Century Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science

An extensive body of philosophical literature exists exploring Darwin’s complex methodology, which used indirect evidence in support of his theory in the context of 19th-century views of the philosophy of science (see “Darwinian Revolution”). Lewens 2007 provides a good starting point for understanding Darwin, Darwinism, and philosophy of science, as does the two-volume set of papers by M. J. S. Hodge (Hodge 2008 and Hodge 2009, cited under Origin and Development of Darwin’s Theory) as well as the collection by Ruse 2009. Hull 1973 focuses specifically on the criticisms of Darwin, as does Vorzimmer 1972, which offers a broad overview of Darwin’s critics (see also Reception of Darwin and Darwinism). Mayr 1991 offers a concise explanation of the structure of Darwin’s argument and its importance in launching a new philosophy of science, while Stamos 2007 offers a probing philosophical analysis of Darwin’s scientific work as a way of understanding philosophy of science. Cunningham 1996 offers a historical reckoning of Darwin’s influence in British philosophical circles, while Sober 2010 offers a series of reflective essays on Darwin and his theory from the vantage point of a philosopher of science.

  • Cunningham, Suzanne. 1996. Philosophy and the Darwinian legacy. Rochester, NY: Univ. of Rochester Press.

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    A novel intellectual history of Darwin’s influence, or lack thereof, in British “analytical” philosophical circles in the middle of the 20th century.

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  • Hull, David L. 1973. Darwin and his critics: The reception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by the scientific community. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Examines the response to Darwin’s theory, based on the reviews of some sixteen major 19th-century figures. Organized in the form of an anthology, and the introduction offers a philosophical analysis of Darwin’s theory and what it reveals about scientific methodology. Written with an eye to responding to Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy of science, which was actively debated by philosophers of science at the time.

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  • Lewens, Tim. 2007. Darwin. New York: Routledge.

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    A useful philosophical introduction to Darwin and his work that explores its relevance to traditional philosophical questions about mind, politics, knowledge, ethics, and science.

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  • Mayr, Ernst. 1991. One long argument: Charles Darwin and the genesis of modern evolutionary thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Useful introduction to Darwin’s theory and the argument in support of it, by one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century.

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  • Ruse, Michael, ed. 2009. Philosophy after Darwin: Classic and contemporary readings. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    A useful collection of excerpts that explore how Darwin and Darwinism have shaped areas like ethics, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and philosophy of language, among others.

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  • Sober, Elliot. 2010. Did Darwin write the Origin backwards? Philosophical essays on Darwin’s theory. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

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    A collection of four reflective philosophical essays on Darwin, Darwinism, and contemporary perspectives on evolutionary biology, by a leading philosopher of biology.

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  • Stamos, David N. 2007. Darwin and the nature of species. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    Examination of Darwin’s scientific work that sheds light on the philosophy of science.

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  • Vorzimmer, Peter. 1972. Charles Darwin: The years of controversy: The Origin of species and its critics, 1859–1882. London: Univ. of London Press.

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    A now dated, but still useful overview of the many critics of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

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Darwin, Morality, and Religion

The literature available that examines Darwin, Darwinism, and evolution in the context of moral or religious concerns is especially rich. Indeed, it is one of the areas most closely studied by a diverse community of scholars, from historians of American and British culture, to historians of religion, to moral philosophers and literary scholars (for a biographical study critical of the moral implications of Darwinism, see Himmelfarb 1959, cited under Scholarly Biographies since 1959; see also Reception of Darwin and Darwinism for more on national contexts). A useful overview of the British context is Bowler 2001, which examines the religious response to Darwinism in Britain. Foundational works examining especially the “Protestant struggle” to come to terms with Darwinism include Moore 1979, Livingstone 1987, and Roberts 1988 (and see also the section Darwin on Trial). The official Vatican response is covered in a special collection, Artigas, et al. 2006 (cited under Reception in European Contexts. Cantor and Swetlitz 2006 offers one of the first attempts to understand the Jewish response. Other works assessing the relationship between science, religion, and moral philosophy include Durant 1985, which comprises a series of classic essays on the topic, as well as Greene 1999, which includes a number of the author’s publications and essays on the topic (see also Greene 1959, cited under General Histories). A good literary approach to Darwinism and morality can also be found in Levine 2006 as well as Dawson 2007 (cited under Literature, Language, and Metaphor in Darwin).

Darwin on Trial

A number of works explore the clashes between evolutionists and creationists in the United States, from an intellectual as well as a legal perspective (see also Darwin, Morality, and Religion). The best work to examine the legal aspects of the “Scopes Monkey Trial” and the role played by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union in shaping its character is Larson 1997. It is a very readable prize-winning and engaging account of the actual trial. The book builds on Larson 1989, focusing on the legal issues surrounding the teaching of evolution in the United States. The general trajectory of American fundamentalism, evangelical thought, and “creationism” and its persistence in generating anti-evolution sentiment in American culture is best explored in Numbers 2006, while Bowler 2009 is another useful overview of the many legal contexts for the evolution-creation battles(see also Reception in English-Speaking Contexts). Yet another novel account of the celebrated trial is provided by LaFollette 2008, which is based on previously unknown photographs. It also includes a discussion of the role played by science news services and the press in the trial and on public perception of evolution. For more on the reception of Darwinism and the new evolutionary biology after the Darwin Celebration of 1959 and its galvanizing effect on creationism, see Smocovitis 1999 (cited under Commemorations and Celebrations).

  • Bowler, Peter J. 2009. Monkey trials and gorilla sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to intelligent design. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Provides a general overview of the evolution and Christianity debate, beginning with the publication of On the Origin of Species and continuing up to the present.

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  • Futuyuma, Douglas J. 1995. Science on trial: The case for evolution. Rev. ed. Sunderland, PA: Sinauer.

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    A popular, reliable account focusing especially on the challenges to evolution by the “scientific creationists” of the 1970s and 1980s.

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  • LaFollette, Marcel Chotkowski. 2008. Reframing Scopes: Journalists, scientists, and lost photographs from the trial of the century. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

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    A novel compact historical rendering of the celebrated trial, based on the discovery of unpublished photographs.

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  • Larson, Edward J. 1989. Trial and error: The American controversy over creation and evolution. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A reliable historical account emphasizing the legal aspects of the teaching of evolution in America, and the celebrated trial.

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  • Larson, Edward J. 1997. Summer for the gods: The Scopes trial and America’s continuing debate over science and religion. New York: Basic Books.

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    Drawing on trial transcripts and legal documents, this book offers a revisionist history of the great “Scopes Monkey Trial” and its relevance in American culture. Larson adds much more complexity to the standard science versus religion interpretation.

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  • Numbers, Ronald L. 2006. The creationists: From scientific creationism to intelligent design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Examines the American context that gave rise to the creationist movement as a response to Darwinism, and how more extreme elements came to dominate the public discussion. First published in 1992.

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The Reception of Darwin and Darwinism

The manner in which Darwin’s ideas—and his persona—were received by various communities has generated an appreciable and diverse body of scholarly literature. Some of this has focused on the reception of his ideas in intellectual, scientific, philosophical, or religious communities (see the sections Darwin, Morality, and Religion and Darwin on Trial for the many responses of this nature to Darwin and Darwinism; and see also Hull 1973 and Vorzimmer 1972 for the critical response in Darwin, Nineteenth Century Philosophy and Philosophy of Science), but yet another body of overlapping literature examines Darwin and Darwinism, and its varied meanings, in diverse national contexts that span the globe. Scholars justifiably now speak of “the global Darwin” for this reason (see also Commemorations and Celebrations to see how anniversary dates are received in different national contexts; for the interplay of Darwinism, social Darwinism, and eugenics, see Social Darwinism and Darwinism and Eugenics; and for other ways to examine the reception of Darwin, see Visual Culture, Darwin, and Evolution and Darwin and Popular Culture).

Reception in English-Speaking Contexts

Darwin’s most immediate impact was felt in his own native England and other English-speaking nations, or what is sometimes called “Anglo-America.” The American response has been especially well studied, starting with Dupree 1959 (cited under Darwin’s Mentors, Friends, and Contemporaries), a biography of Asa Gray, Darwin’s American correspondent and promoter. The foundational work on the reception of Darwin in American intellectual circles is Russett 1976. A brief history of the dissemination of Darwinism is also provided in Numbers 1998. Numbers and Stenhouse 1999 is an edited collection on the reception of Darwin in a number of English-speaking contexts as does MacLeod and Rehbock 1994 (cited under Biogeography), which focuses on the Pacific context. The interplay of Darwinism, social Darwinism, and eugenics forms an overlapping body of literature that has especially focused on English-speaking contexts (see Social Darwinism, Darwinism and Eugenics, and Darwin, Literature, and Cultural Studies).

Reception in European Contexts

The reception of Darwin in a number of European contexts has been the subject of intensive study by historians of science. A good place to begin is Glick 1988, which comprises a set of essays on the subject that broke ground on the topic. Engels and Glick 2008 contains yet another set of essays of broad comparative nature. Germany, Russia, and France have drawn the greatest attention from historians, in part because they have been considered the “core” of European intellectual endeavors, though some studies of the “periphery” are increasingly drawing attention. Gliboff 2008 is devoted expressly to the subject of the dissemination and reception of Darwin in Germany (see also Richards 2008, cited under Darwin’s Mentors, Friends, and Contemporaries, for a biography of Ernst Haeckel, one of Darwin’s greatest promoters in German-speaking contexts). Studies of the reception of Darwin and Darwinism in Russia generally explore the interplay of Darwin and political theory. Foundational works include Vucinich 1988 and Todes 1989, which focuses on the recasting of Darwinian theory in late-19th-century Russian political thought, which did not favor competition. The reception of Darwin and Darwinism in France has also been closely studied by scholars focusing on the influence of Lamarck and other transformationist theories that preceded Darwinism, or on the specific influence of the Catholic response, as well as the interplay between the two as a backdrop to thinking about Darwin. Conry 1974 provides the foundational work on how Lamarck’s influence hampered the acceptance of Darwinism, while Tort 1996, provides an important set of essays on Darwinism in France. Harvey 1997 (cited in the section on Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Darwin) provides an especially novel picture of reception through a biographical study on Clemence Royer, one of Darwin’s French translators (see also the other sources under Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Darwin, which touch on the response by women’s groups, especially in American contexts). The official response of the Vatican, in the sociopolitical context of the newly formed Italian state, is explored in Artigas, et al. 2006.

  • Artigas, Mariano, Thomas F. Glick, and Rafael A. Martinez. 2006. Negotiating Darwin: The Vatican confronts evolution, 1877–1902. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    Focusing on a handful of case studies and documents made available after the opening of the Holy Office in 1998, this book examines the intricate manner in which the Catholic Church integrated Darwin’s ideas in the context of the history and sociopolitics of the newly formed Italian state.

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  • Conry, Yvette. 1974. L’Introduction du darwinisme en France au XIXeme siècle. Paris: Vrin.

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    This book examines how Darwin and his ideas faced special challenges in France, where Lamarck and Lamarckism held special favor.

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  • Engels, Eva Marie, and Thomas F. Glick, eds. 2008. The reception of Charles Darwin in Europe. London: Continuum.

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    This is a two-volume collection that attempts to provide a comprehensive overview of the reception of Darwin in diverse European national contexts, from the publication of On the Origin of Species well into the middle decades of the 20th century.

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  • Gliboff, Sander. 2008. H. G. Bronn, Ernst Haeckel, and the origins of German Darwinism: A study in translation and transformation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262072939.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A useful work examining the transmission of Darwinian thinking to German contexts and the resistance to it in the context of German philosophy.

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  • Glick, Thomas. 1988. The comparative reception of Darwinism. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A classic set of essays assessing the nationalist responses to Darwinism and evolutionary theory. Also offers some historiographic reflections, and explores the variety of Catholic responses. First published in 1972; this edition contains a new preface.

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  • Todes, Daniel. 1989. Darwin without Malthus: The struggle for existence in Russian evolutionary thought. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This is a foundational work for reception studies in the Russian context. Emphasis is placed on the social theorist Prince Kropotkin’s theory of “mutual aid” and how it was fused with Darwinism against the backdrop of the Russian physical and sociopolitical environment.

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  • Tort, P., ed. 1996. Dictionaire du Darwinisme et de l’evolution. Paris: Presses Universaires de France.

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    Comprising a number of original general articles, this dictionary is an invaluable source for understanding Darwin, Darwinism, and evolution in the French context.

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  • Vucinich, Alexander. 1988. Darwin in Russian thought. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Careful intellectual study of the transmission and understanding of Darwinism in Russia and how it frequently blended with Lamarckian views of transformation.

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Reception in Non-European Contexts

Scholars have only recently begun to explore the varied and often unexpected responses outside English-speaking or European contexts. China, with its tumultuous recent political history, is an especially rich context for exploring the reception of Darwin and Darwinism. The best work so far remains Pusey 1983. Though digressing from traditional Darwinism, Schmalzer 2008 offers an imaginative portrait of what evolution meant to popular Chinese fossil collectors as new fossil discoveries pertaining to human evolution became part of Chinese identity against a shifting political backdrop. One of the few works examining the South American context is Novoa and Levine 2010, which focuses on the spread and interpretation of Darwinism by Argentinian biologists and intellectuals. Elshakry 2013 offers one of the few historical examinations of the popularization of Darwin’s work and its interpretation and use in varied intellectual communities in Syria and Egypt, and its eventual spread to the Arab-speaking world.

Darwin and After

A number of scholars have examined the Darwinian legacy as it was either expressed, extended, or amended in the 20th century. Many, but not all of these works examine the integration of genetics with Darwinian selection theory and explore what has been termed the “modern synthesis” of evolution in the historical event called the “evolutionary synthesis” of the 1920–1950 period. Gayon 1998 offers a historical account of the theory from Darwin to the middle decades of the 20th century from a philosophical vantage point. Bowler 1983 offers a survey of the many anti-evolution theories that prevailed during the interval of time that has been called the “eclipse of Darwin,” around the year 1900, while Bowler 1998 examines the history of morphology and the attempts to reconstruct phylogenies on approximately the same chronological period leading to the period of synthesis. Provine 1971 is a good starting point for understanding turn of the century developments leading to mathematical population genetics, while Provine 1986 offers an understanding of the whole of the 20th century through the prism of the life of Sewall Wright, one of the major mathematical theorists of the 20th century. Ruse 1996 traces out the theme of progress in the evolutionary community from Darwin to the middle decades of the 20th century. Mayr and Provine 1980 is considered the foundational collection of essays related the historical event designated as the “evolutionary synthesis,” which saw the fusion of genetics with Darwinian selection theory to account for the origins of biological diversity. Building on this, Smocovitis 1996 offers a historiographic revision of the “evolutionary synthesis” and examines the emergence of the unifying discipline of evolutionary biology in the 20th century (for the fate of Darwin’s views on sexual selection and behavior, see also the section on Sexual Selection and Behavior, and for his influence on the science of ecology, see Darwin and Ecology).

  • Bowler, Peter J. 1983. The eclipse of Darwin: Anti-evolutionary theories in the decades around 1900. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    Surveys the range of anti-evolutionary responses to Darwinian theory at the turn of the 20th century.

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  • Bowler, Peter J. 1998. Life’s splendid drama: Evolutionary biology and the reconstruction of life’s ancestry, 1860–1940. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Comprehensive history of the intersection of morphology, systematics, paleontology, biogeography and embryology in the attempt to trace theories, methods and debates over phylogenetic analysis and reconstruction of the evolutionary past from Darwin to the period of the “evolutionary synthesis.”

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  • Gayon, Jean. 1998. Darwinism’s struggle for survival. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Offers a reliable, detailed philosophical history of evolutionary theory from Darwin well into the 20th century.

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  • Mayr, Ernst, and William B. Provine, eds. 1980. The evolutionary synthesis: Perspectives on the unification of biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674865389Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A classic collection of papers that are primary and secondary historical sources by some of the architects of the evolutionary synthesis, and by some historians and philosophers of science.

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  • Provine, William B. 1971. The origins of theoretical population genetics. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Traces the fate of Darwin’s selection theory through the “eclipse of Darwin” at the turn of the century, as well as its restoration in the mathematical models of modern population genetics.

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  • Provine, William B. 1986. Sewall Wright and evolutionary biology. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Comprehensive biographical study of the mathematical theorist Sewall Wright that traces the development and fate of Darwin’s theorizing from its origin to the 1980s.

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  • Ruse, Michael. 1996. Monad to man: The concept of progress in evolutionary biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Examines how evolutionary progress has undergirded evolutionary theory from Darwin to recent thinkers.

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  • Smocovitis, Vassiliki Betty. 1996. Unifying biology: The evolutionary synthesis and evolutionary biology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Argues that the evolutionary synthesis saw the emergence of the unifying discipline of evolutionary biology, and that Darwin’s project was fulfilled at the same time that he was reinvented as the “founding father” of the new discipline.

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Social Darwinism

The term “social Darwinism” and its diverse applications gained currency around 1900. Its introduction was intended to draw a distinction between Darwin’s views and their application in social or national policies, which were fueled by social reformers or thinkers in the late 19th and early 20th century in a number of contexts (see also the sections Reception of Darwin and Darwinism and Darwinism and Eugenics). As strange as it seems, scholars have debated, and some continue to debate, the extent to which Darwin himself counted as a social Darwinist, given that his initial theory appeared to limit itself to organic change, and given the fact that much of his work was appropriated or interpreted by people well outside scientific circles. Darwin himself speaks of what is clearly social evolution in his Descent of Man, further blurring the attempt to draw clear distinctions between the two, and popular readers have frequently conflated the views of Charles Darwin with those of the social theorist Herbert Spencer. Scholars have devoted gallons of ink to explorations of social Darwinism in varied contexts, beginning with Hofstadter 1944, which is considered the foundational study. Building on this, Jones 1980 examines social theory and evolutionary theory in the context of Britain, while Bannister 1989, another foundational study, extends the analysis to include the United States, and Hawkins 1997 extends it to Europe. Most studies examining the interplay of biological and social theories have attempted to tease apart or draw fine-focused distinctions between Darwin, Spencer, and advocates of social Darwinism, or to explore the application of Darwinism and evolution to formulating social policies and national policies, to justify imperial expansion, or even to justify the rise of insidious forms of scientific racism grounded in often confused understandings of what Darwin said, or what others made of what Darwin said. Pittinger 1993 offers a focused study of American socialists and evolutionary theory, while Crook 1994 offers a study of Darwinism and its interplay with militarism and with war. Overall, discussions of social Darwinism, along with eugenics, are usually grounded in some version of the “nature versus nurture” dialogue. Two of the best summaries of this enduring dialogue are found in Cravens 1974, which is foundational reading, especially for its argument that social Darwinist thinking carried over into the 20th century, and Degler 1991, a more recent synthetic work.

  • Bannister, Robert C. 1989. Social Darwinism: Science and myth in Anglo-American social thought. Reprint. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    A classic historical work exploding a number of myths about social Darwinism and demonstrating the many different ways the term has shifted meanings. First published in 1979.

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  • Cravens, Hamilton. 1974. The heredity-environment controversy, 1900–1941. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    Foundational work examining the range of controversies concerning “nature versus nurture” in the United States, extending into the 20th century, after the period conventionally associated with social Darwinism in America.

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  • Crook, Paul. 1994. Darwinism: War and history. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A historical view of the complex manner in which Darwinism both fueled and opposed militarism and war.

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  • Degler, Carl N. 1991. In search of human nature: The decline and revival of Darwinism in American social thought. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Offers an ambitious overview of how the relationship between Darwinism and the emphasis on biology, have interacted with American social thought by examining the work of key intellectuals and policies. This is now a foundational work examining the debate over nature versus nurture in American intellectual contexts.

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  • Hawkins, Mike. 1997. Social Darwinism in European and American thought, 1860–1945: Nature as model and nature as threat. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558481Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This is a nice overview of the subjects of social Darwinism and eugenics and how they were received and rejected by some major thinkers up to the Second World War.

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  • Hofstadter, Richard. 1944. Social Darwinism in American thought. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    Foundational work examining Darwinism and racism in American thought, with special attention to major American intellectuals like James Dewey and William James.

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  • Jones, Greta. 1980. Social Darwinism and English thought. Brighton, UK: Harvester.

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    Examines Darwin’s own thoughts about progress and society in light of particular social theories and sociopolitical movements in Britain.

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  • Pittinger, Mark. 1993. American socialists and evolutionary thought, 1870–1920. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

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    Explores how the ideas of Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin were assimilated by reformers and blended with social theory, socialist philosophy, and policy.

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Darwinism and Eugenics

A number of scholars have examined Darwinism, social Darwinism, and the advent of eugenics—the attempt to deliberately control human heredity, or to “improve” the genetic stock of humans (see also the section on Social Darwinism, as well as Reception of Darwin and Darwinism). A useful brief overview linking Darwinism to eugenics and to current genetic practices can be found in Paul 1995, while Richardson 2003 (cited under Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Darwin) provides a novel interpretation of eugenics from a feminist perspective. Darwin’s own cousin, Francis Galton, was most responsible for introducing “eugenics,” a peculiar mixture of contemporary scientific attempts to come to terms with heredity, with late-19th-century concerns over race, the preservation of the stock, and health, both at the individual and public level. Bulmer 2003 offers a scientific biography on Galton, with special emphasis on the development of his statistical methods, while Gilham 2001 offers a more contextual biographical portrait of Galton. Porter 2004 offers a biographical portrait of Karl Pearson, one of Galton’s collaborators, whose work proved crucial in the development of modern statistical methods as applied to evolutionary theory and to society, while Mackenzie 1981 provides an overview of the rise of statistical methods and their applications in the social and life sciences from a constructivist vantage point.

  • Bulmer, Michael. 2003. Francis Galton: Pioneer of heredity and biometry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    Scientific biography of Darwin’s cousin, with an emphasis on his theories of genetics and eugenics. Reliable explanation of his statistical studies.

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  • Gilham, Nicholas Wright. 2001. A life of Sir Francis Galton: From African exploration to the birth of eugenics. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A comprehensive biography of Darwin’s cousin that offers a discussion of his views on eugenics.

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  • Mackenzie, Donald. 1981. Statistics in Britain, 1865–1930: The social construction of scientific knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press.

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    Offers a historical reckoning of statistics and biometry from a constructivist perspective.

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  • Paul, Diane B. 1995. Controlling human heredity: 1865 to the present. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.

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    Examines the interplay of eugenics, genetics, and social Darwinism from the late 19th-century to the present, and raises questions about contemporary biomedical practice.

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  • Porter, Theodore. 2004. Karl Pearson: The scientific life in a statistical age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    A biography of Karl Pearson, with an eye to understanding the emergence of statistics and its applications to society.

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Darwin, Literature, and Cultural Studies

A growing body of diverse literature is dedicated to bringing the methodology and insights from the humanities and cultural studies to bear on understanding Darwin, his theory, his written works, and a number of cultural forms from music, to poetry, to theater that have appropriated Darwin, Darwinism, and evolution. Some of this literature examines the diverse audiences for Darwin and his theory (see also the section on the Reception of Darwin and Darwinism), while other studies focus on close readings of Darwin’s many texts in terms of their rhetorical structure, language, and use of metaphors or other literary tropes, as well as his relations to contemporary writers, including Victorian novelists. Other works have analyzed his texts and influence through the critical prisms of race, class, and gender, sometimes against a particular backdrop of various communities of knowledge, or focused specifically on visual images associated with Darwin. Still others offer a kind of meta-analysis of how biographers have variously constructed Darwin’s identity, or how anniversary dates serve as opportunities for the reinvention of Darwin’s image.

Literature, Language, and Metaphor in Darwin

Darwin’s poetic use of language, the narrative patterns of many of his major writings, his relations with other writers, and his powerful use of metaphors in works like On the Origin of Species have been the subject of important scholarship by literary scholars and historians, the most foundational of which is Beer 1983, which examines the structures of narrative common in Darwin and 19th-century novelists. Levine 1988 builds on this and focuses specifically on parallels between Darwin’s writings and Victorian novelists, while Levine 2011 examines Darwin as a writer directly. Other literary and historical scholars blend literary analysis of texts with satirical genres like cartoons or caricatures to get at Victorian moral attitudes toward Darwin and his theory (see Dawson 2007), while others examine Darwin’s views of nature in terms of moral philosophy (see Levine 2006, as well as the section on Darwin, Philosophy, Morality, and Religion. Young 1985 offers a pioneering study on Darwinian metaphor against a sociopolitical or ideological backdrop, while Kohn 1996 (cited under Origin and Development of Darwin’s Theory) explores metaphors like the “entangled bank” in the context of aesthetic movements. Darwin’s influence on language theories is covered ably in Radick 2010, which tracks these theories well into the 20th century.

  • Beer, Gillian. 1983. Darwin’s plots: Evolutionary narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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    Pioneering study of Darwin’s writing and its literary parallels in contemporary fictional writers like George Eliot. Second edition published in 2000.

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  • Dawson, Gowan. 2007. Darwin, literature, and respectability. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Makes novel use of visual representations like cartoons and caricatures to understand the reactions and responses to Darwinism in light of Victorian attitudes toward obscenity and respectability.

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  • Levine, George. 1988. Darwin and the novelists: Patterns of science in Victorian fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Examines how Darwin’s ideas informed major 19th-century British novelists.

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  • Levine, George. 2006. Darwin loves you: Natural selection and the re-enchantment of the world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Argues against the negative consequences of natural selection that “disenchanted” the world, and instead argues for the view that Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection provided for the possibility of a more beneficent world.

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  • Levine, George. 2011. Darwin the writer. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608430.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines the literary and aesthetic merits of Darwin’s science as it was conveyed by his writing. Argues that Darwin’s influence was determined by his mode of argument and language as much as it was by the ideas and evidence he presented.

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  • Radick, Gregory. 2010. The simian tongue: The long debate about animal language. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Offers a comprehensive history of Darwin’s influence on language theory and experimental attempts to understand the complex evolutionary functions of language in humans and animals.

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  • Young, Robert M. 1985. Darwin’s metaphor: Nature’s place in Victorian culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    One of the first examinations locating Darwin in a sociological and ideological context. Explores the notion of “common context” in the development of science.

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Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Darwin

A number of works examine Darwin’s life and the formulation of his theory and its influences through the critical prism of gender, while others examine his relations to women and how his work may have shaped women’s movements in a number of national contexts. Richards 1983 offers one of the first feminist critiques of Darwin and his controversial views on women, while Russett 1989 offers one of the first studies of Darwin and his influence on womanhood and the women’s movement in the late-19th-century Victorian context. Hamblin 2014 builds on this work to offer a recent portrait of Darwin’s influence on women’s movements and the struggle for equality in a more positive light. Harvey 1997 offers a biographical portrait of Clemence Royer, Darwin’s French translator, and her blending of feminism and women’s education with Darwinism in France (for more on national contexts, see Reception of Darwin and Darwinism), while Harvey 2009 examines some of the women in Darwin’s correspondence who have been neglected by Darwin scholars, as does Gianquitto 2007, which focuses on American women who corresponded with Darwin. Darwinism and the eugenics movement as it applied to women in general, and to reproduction in particular, is explored by Richardson 2003, while Darwin’s views of sexual selection and what it reveals about his views on women and behavior, broadly construed, have been explored by other scholars (see also the section on Sexual Selection and Behavior).

  • Gianquitto, Tina. 2007. Good observers of nature: American women and scientific study of the natural world. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press.

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    One of the first studies to examine Darwin’s women correspondents.

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  • Hamblin, Kimberley A. 2014. From Eve to evolution: Darwin, science, and women’s rights in Gilded-Age America. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A recent historical study examining the many influences of Darwinian theory on the struggle for equality and the women’s movement in Gilded-Age America.

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  • Harvey, Joy. 1997. “Almost a Man of Genius”: Clemence Royer, feminism, and nineteenth century science. Trenton, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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    Original biographical study of Clemence Royer, Darwin’s translator in France. The book explores her unauthorized reinterpretation and her controversial introduction, written in light of Lamarckism and progressive evolution. Royer’s life, and her commitment to education and to the women’s movement, forms the backdrop of the book, but her relationship to Darwin and to serving as his first spokesperson in France is featured prominently.

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  • Harvey, Joy. 2009. Darwin’s “Angels”: The women correspondents of Charles Darwin. Intellectual History Review 19:197–210.

    DOI: 10.1080/17496970902981686Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Review article examining the many women who corresponded with Charles Darwin.

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  • Richards, Evelleen. 1983. Darwin and the descent of woman. In The wider domain of evolutionary thought. Edited by D. Oldroyd and I. Langham, 57–111. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-6986-5Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the first powerful feminist critiques of Darwin’s views of the female of the species.

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  • Richardson, Angelique. 2003. Love and eugenics in the late nineteenth century: Rational reproduction and the new woman. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Imaginative exploration of the interaction between feminism and eugenics from a literary standpoint.

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  • Russett, Cynthia E. 1989. Sexual science: The Victorian construction of womanhood. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Pioneering study of gender and the origins of evolutionary theory in Victorian England.

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Visual Culture, Darwin, and Evolution

Some of the most engaging and imaginative ways to understand the reception of Darwin’s work, and the various instantiations of his theory, is through close study of the many visual images in his own work, as well as images that either reflected understandings of Darwinism or responded to him directly (see also Tort 2001, cited under Popular or Illustrated Biographies). Ellegård 1990 is a pioneering study of the many responses to Darwin, viewed through the visual images he and his theory evoked in the popular press, and Browne 2001 looks specifically at caricatures of Darwin as way of understanding representations and reactions to his theory. Clark 2008 offers a scholarly analysis of attempts to represent Darwin and his theory in popular images such as cartoons and displays in American museum settings, while Larson and Brauer 2009 provides a collection of studies that examine the impact of Darwin and Darwinism directly on art and visual culture. Darwin’s use of illustrations is examined in Voss 2010 and Smith 2006, while Prodger 2009 focuses on Darwin’s novel scientific use of new technologies, such as photography, in his 1871 Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (see also Dawson 2007, cited under Literature, Language, and Metaphor in Darwin).

  • Browne, Janet. 2001. Darwin in caricature: A study in the popularization and dissemination of evolution. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 145:496–509.

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    Brief examination of some of the many caricatures of the Darwin figure.

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  • Clark, Constance. 2008. God—or gorilla: Images of evolution in the jazz age. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

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    An imaginative interdisciplinary study drawing on images of evolution in museum settings and in cartoons in the first few decades of the 20th century in the United States.

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  • Donald, Diana, and Jane Munro, eds. 2009. Endless forms: Charles Darwin, natural science, and the visual arts. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Lavishly illustrated anthology to accompany a special visual exhibition organized by the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University and the Yale Center for British Art.

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  • Ellegård, Alvar. 1990. Darwin and the general reader. Edited by David Hull. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Pioneering work drawing on close examination of the popular press immediately after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the manner in which it featured—or ignored—Darwin’s theory.

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  • Larson, Barbara Jean, and Fae Brauer, eds. 2009. Darwin, Darwinisms and visual culture. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press.

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    An anthology of imaginative studies of Darwin’s impact in art and on general visual culture, as well as visual attempts to represent different interpretations of his theory. Includes some stunning illustrations.

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  • Prodger, Phillip. 2009. Darwin’s camera: Art and photography in the theory of evolution. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Examines how Darwin used new photographic techniques in his 1871 Expression of the Emotions in Men and Animals.

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  • Smith, Jonathan. 2006. Charles Darwin and Victorian visual culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A historical examination of the many illustrations used by Darwin. Organization follows the objects of Darwin’s studies from barnacles, to birds, to plants, to faces and worms. Includes detailed analysis of Darwin’s research based on these illustrations.

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  • Voss, Julia. 2010. Darwin’s pictures: Views of evolutionary theory, 1837–1874. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Examines Darwin’s theory through the careful choice of four of his illustrations, which are explored in detail for their meaning and what they reveal about Darwin’s thinking in the context of Victorian science and its popular representations.

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Darwin and Popular Culture

One of the more exciting and imaginative areas of recent research examines Darwin, Darwinism, and evolutionary theory against the backdrop of popular culture in varied national contexts (see also Secord 2000, cited under Forerunners of Darwin; and see Reception of Darwin and Darwinism). Approaches vary widely, from emphases on the press, magazines, and popular works of science, as in Bowler 2009, which concentrates on the first couple of decades of the 20th century in Britain; Kelly 1981, which focuses on Germany; and Lightman 2007, a general study of Darwin’s own Victorian context. Other works examine Darwin’s impact and reception in specific cultural forms, such as dance and choreography, as in Gordon 2009, or music and theater, either responding to Darwin or expressing the reception of Darwinism, as in Smocovitis 2009. The influence of music in Darwin’s own life and his specific and conventional musical tastes are examined in Derry 2009.

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