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Charles Darwin's Letters: A Selection, 1825-1859 [Hardcover]

Stephen Jay Gould , Charles Darwin , Frederick Burkhardt


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Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859. Anniversary edition. (Selected Letters of C. Darwin) Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859. Anniversary edition. (Selected Letters of C. Darwin) 5.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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29 Feb 1996
Charles Darwin stands as a towering figure in science, who changed the direction of modern thought in establishing the basis of evolutionary biology. These letters offer a fascinating window onto his daily experience, scientific observations, personal concerns and friendships, affording a unique glimpse of Darwin as both naturalist and family man. From his early years at Edinburgh University up to the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859, the letters in this volume chart the most exciting years of Darwin's life, including the voyage of the Beagle and the subsequent findings which led to his theory of natural selection. The Cambridge Edition of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin (winner of the first Morton N. Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters) has been hailed as a monumental edition and a triumph of post-war publishing. This selected edition, introduced by Stephen Jay Gould, makes these engaging letters newly available.

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Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury in 1809 and was educated at Shrewsbury School, Edinburgh University and Christ's College Cambridge. He took his degree in 1831 and in the same year embarked on a five-year voyage on HMS Beagle as a companion to the captain; the purpose of the voyage was to chart the coasts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and to carry a chain of chronometric readings round the world.

While he was away some of his letters on scientific matters were privately published, and on his return he at once took his place among the leading men of science. In 1839 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Most of the rest of his life was occupied in publishing the findings of the voyage and in documenting his theory of the transmutation of species. On the origin of species by means of natural selection appeared in 1859.

Darwin spent many years with his wife - his cousin Emma Wedgwood, whom he had married in 1839 - and their children at Down House in Kent. He died in 1882, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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'One of the great feasts of editing in decades has been the painstaking assembly, by a suite of scholars, of the letters of Charles Darwin … This little hardback is just a hint of the riches contained in the Cambridge series, at nine volumes so far and still going.' The Guardian

'Charles Darwin's Letters show Darwin as a captivating correspondent … his excitement as his theory takes shape is catching.' New Scientist

'… a charming and stimulating introduction to Darwin's world.' Richard Yeo, Metascience

'The selection is a satisfying blend of personal details and scientific debate.' Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter

Book Description

This unique selection of Darwin's letters offers a fascinating window onto his daily experiences as naturalist and family man, up to the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. The voyage of the Beagle and the subsequent findings which led to his theory of natural selection are central to these most exciting years of Darwin's life.

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As I suppose Erasmus has given all the particulars of the journey I will say no more about it, except that alltogether it has cost me 7 pounds- Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Sampling of Darwin Correspondence 31 May 2007
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In May of 2007, the Darwin Correspondence Project, based at Cambridge University, announced that it had placed an additional 5,000 largely unpublished Darwin letters onto its excellent web site (darwin-online.org.uk). This website is a treasurehouse of the first order for anyone interested in Darwin and Victornian intellectual history. Of course, Cambridge University Press has published a number of volumes in its Darwin correspondence series. However, for a quick dip into Darwin's letters, to get a feel from what is there, this collection covering the period up to the publication in 1859 of "Origin" is a handy introduction. The book has a Foreword by the late Stephen Jay Gould which places the letters into the context of what as going on in Victorian science. The editor, Frederick Burkhardt, has added a helpfujl Introduction and "Editor's Note." The letters are in chronological order, the first being written in 1825 while Darwin was studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Next are letters relating to Cambridge, the offer to make the Beagle voyage, the voyage to South America, and Homeward Bound. So there is plenty of coverage of Darwin's epic trip. But the letters continue after his return up until publication of the Origin. The editor has included some helpful notes, a Biographical Register, Bibliography and Bibliographical Note, and suggestions for further reading (a bit out of date since the book was put together in 1996). All together a very nice and inexpensive package loaded with interesting information and providing the opportunity to come more directly into contact with that most scintilating of minds, that of Darwin.
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