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Darwin's Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England Hardcover – 29 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (29 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140870000X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408700006
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 592,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steve Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College London and the president of the Galton Institute. He delivered the BBC Reith Lectures in 1991, appears frequently on radio and television and is a regular columnist for the Daily Telegraph. His previous books include The Language of the Genes, Almost Like a Whale, Y: The Descent of Man and, most recently, Coral.

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Review

** 'Steve Jones who in ALMOST LIKE A WHALE successfully rewrote Darwin in the 21st century, reminds us in DARWIN'S ISLAND that Darwin did actually write 19 other books which are full of insight into the human condition and into the flora and fauna of Britain - hence his title. If you were to read one new book on Darwin this year, this should be it (Christopher Hudson, DAILY MAIL)

** 'Darwin's theory of evolution is often imagined to be the result of his voyage to the Galapagos Islands aboard HMS Beagle. But as Steve Jones points out at the start of his enthralling book, he spent only five weeks in the Galapagos, whereas for 40 yea (John Carey SUNDAY TIMES)

** 'Wow, Goodness me! Fancy that! Well I never! This is what you will be saying at every other page of Steve Jones's brilliant, remarkable, profound and deeply unsettling book. Your reactions otherwise will be shock and awe: shock at how far down the road to hell humankind has pushed its handcart, and awe at the light way Jones wears his formidable learning. If there is one book to be read at this bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of his The Origin of Species, then this must be it (Andy Barclay IRISH TIMES)

Darwin's Island fills in the details of four decades that followed his five years on HMS Beagle. A professor of genetics and a gifted writer who has already successfully updated Darwin for the 21st century in an earlier book, Steve Jones is ideally place (Roger Highfield DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Review

'Wow, Goodness me! Fancy that! Well I never! This is what you will be saying at every other page of Steve Jones's brilliant, remarkable, profound and deeply unsettling book. Your reactions otherwise will be shock and awe: shock at how far down the road to hell humankind has pushed its handcart, and awe at the light way Jones wears his formidable learning. If there is one book to be read at this bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of his The Origin of Species, then this must be it'

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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By hbw VINE VOICE on 9 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the striking things about the The Origin of Species is how much time Darwin spent pottering about in his garden and indeed, as Steve Jones says in his introduction, the great naturalist spent most of his time observing the natural world either at home or on extensive travels throughout Britain. I was delighted, therefore, to find "Darwin's Island".

Moral: never judge a book by its cover. Although there are some references to Darwin's garden and travels, this is not the book's main focus, nor is it, despite its historical background, a work of scientific history.

What we do get, however, is a review of some of the topics that Darwin studied, many of which are suggested by his lesser known works. The result is a fascinating whirlwind tour of carnivorous plants, insects, orchids, hops, barnacles and earthworms; as well as more predictable topics such as sexual selection.

This is a highly readable book aimed firmly at a general readership with no special knowledge of biology. Steve Jones has a neat turn of phrase and a good line in dry humour as well as a gift for drawing together the strands of historical and contemporary scientific thought and placing them into the context of the modern world.

Whilst drawing on the roots of modern biology, "Darwin's Island" is set very much in the present and, despite the title, has a global scope. As for the future, after reading this book, you may be left wondering whether the sustainability of our planet and our species has more to do with the fate of earthworms and barnacles than giant pandas.

Not quite as advertised, but nevertheless a welcome addition to that other endangered species, the popular science book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 1 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Steve Jones, who is a professor of genetics at University College London and a most engaging writer on evolutionary biology, wrote this book to coincide with the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of "The Origin of Species." He calls his book "Darwin's Island" to emphasize the fact that the vast majority of Darwin's work was on the biota of the island of England following his return from the voyage of the Beagle and not on what he learned during the scant five weeks he spent in the Galapagos Islands as a young man.

Darwin wrote a four-volume work on barnacles (over a thousand pages); he wrote on "Orchids and Insects," on the "Expressions of Emotions," on the "Formation of Vegetable Mould by Earthworms," and of course on "The Descent of Man" and other works, comprising in total more than six million words. Jones' intent is to introduce the reader to the wider range of Darwin's work and by doing so demonstrate why Darwin is widely considered the greatest biologist who ever lived.

Jones' technique is to devote chapters to Darwin's many interests while bringing us up to date on the current understanding. Thus we read about what Darwin learned about worms, barnacles, insects, insectivore plants, sexual selection, our facial expressions, etc., and how that agrees with or differs from what modern science has discovered. What we find out is that Darwin was amazingly prescient in many areas mainly because he worked so diligently for so many years with the kind of enthusiasm few of us can muster. And it didn't hurt that he was a brilliant man.

Darwin could have been a man of leisure because of inherited wealth, but he was driven to discover as much as he could about the natural world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rotgut VINE VOICE on 9 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
If one of your books is the most famous scientific work of all time, and a social phenomenen the shock waves of which reverberated round the world; If, furthermore, this book is still in print 150 years later and still argued over passionately, it's probably likely that your other books will be relatively neglected.

So, Charles Darwin's "Origin of the Species" inevitably obscures his other work which is extensive. In this work of popular science, Steve Jones examines and aims to update some of these overlooked books. With the exception of "Voyage of the Beagle", Darwin's second most famous book, which is, of course, closely related to "Origins", Darwin's other works are given a chapter each. This approach inevitably means Darwins long and complex volumes are reduced to a couple of highlights...e.g. "Fertilisation of Orchids" is reduced to the well known story of Darwin's predicting a long tongued moth and the experiment of Pyramidal Orchid fertilisation repeated in just about every book on orchids since.

Surely we should have moved past Creationists vs Evolutionists argument but this conflict does seem to underpin a lot of Jones' points.

Generally this is a well written and interesting book. Its final chapter, which almost veers into social Darwinism, and sort of explains why every High Street in Britain is identical, as well as explaining more weighty issues of loss of Bio-Diversity is surprisingly depressing.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover
i have really enjoyed the other Steve Jones books that I've read: they are full of amazing facts you immediately want to quote to other people, and his ability to explain an idea from genetics or evolutionary theory in very simple terms is really almost without parallel.

Yet for the first time, reading this book, I felt slightly frustrated that his books are always pitched at such a gentle level. Each chapter is devoted to the subject matter of one of Darwin's post-Origin publications; earthworms, orchids, insectivorous plants, variation in domesticated animals and plants. Take the section on pet dogs: there's lots of good facts about whippets, chihuahuas and pugs... Or the chapter on orchids, which gives a whistlestop guide to the general principles of orchid pollination. You end up with a general picture of orchids being fairly devious plants... but if you wanted to feel that your overall understanding of how evolution and genetics work is being increased, this isn't the book for you.

Darwin's Garden is infinitely readable, but deals with each topic in a chatty, magazine-article way, rarely referring by name to the scientists who actually did the research and never touching on any dissent on a topic. Maybe it's because I have just finished reading Matt Ridley's "Genome", which is pitched at a slightly more informed audience, but I really missed feeling like I was being taken seriously as a reader...
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