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Darwin's "Origin of Species": A Biography (Books That Shook the World) Hardcover – 13 Jul 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Edition edition (13 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843543931
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843543930
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,398,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Clear and artful. It reads like a compelling mystery; indeed it draws us into the compelling mystery of speculation that captivated Darwin."

"Browne shows great respect for the purity of Darwin's intellectual, moral, and spiritual endeavors. She believes in, and conveys, the lasting power of his legacy--to science and to human culture."

"Browne takes a straightforward approach to the life and times of this famous tome. . . . This excellent introduction is highly recommended for all readers who want to better understand the heated debates that this book still causes today." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Janet Browne is a professor at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. Her major work has been a landmark two-volume biography of Charles Darwin, Voyaging (1995) and The Power of Place (2002).

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I bought ths book and couldn't put it down. It was easy to read and it is a great introduction to Darwin and his theory.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1831, when Darwin set off on his voyage round the world, he could not have known that his ideas would still be in circulation in his bicentenary year. Twenty-five years later, finally working on the Origin, he said, "I am like Croesus overwhelmed with my riches of facts". That he didn't give up, that he persevered despite the intellectual challenge, the likely social censure and his own ill-health, and that he distilled out of complexity one of the most important universal laws ever discovered, are all reasons why we continue to hold him in such high esteem. Janet Browne tells the remarkable story - spanning two centuries - of the book and its impact in this compelling and compact account.

For Darwin, facts were not Gradgrindian blows to the soul but living creatures (though often soon to be extinguished by his habit for either collecting or shooting them). His childhood love of nature and sense of wonder at the diversity of life found an early expression in William Paley's theology of a designer-god, which suited his intended career as one those naturalist-parsons who enjoyed "a comfortable niche in a country parish". Like Paley, "Darwin saw organisms that were excellently adapted to their way of life". Unlike Paley and almost everyone else, Darwin saw that sometimes organisms were very poorly designed and very often came off worse in the struggle for survival. He "shattered all previous images of pastoral harmony". He saw that "the urge to succeed was brutal" and "it seemed unlikely that a divine architect would deliberately create such wasteful, purposeless features." As he watched his own daughter die, he asked, "How could a caring, beneficent creator extinguish such an innocent child?
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Format: MP3 CD
Despite being familiar with this subject, I found the audiobook hard going. It's one of the most important and exciting stories in human history, but this reading makes it dull and unengaging. The narrator has a flat voice which sounds like computer generated airport announcements and fails to bring any passion or interest to the story. The continued listing of dates does nothing to relieve the monotone and breaks up the argument time and time again. A great disappointment.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good general (as opposed to specialist) survey of the topic 14 Sept. 2013
By Yoda - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The below is a review of the unabridged CD audiobook

This book is a blend of biography, history of the times in relationship to evolutionary theory and its competing theories, how Darwin's theory came about, a history of Darwin's writing and their development over time (not just Origin of Species), what the legacy of Darwin's theory has been and what recent developments have been impacting the theory of evolution (i.e., the impact of genetic theory of evolution). The book does a very good job at touching at all these topics in its relatively short length. Very good for the lay reader who is looking for a decent combination of all of the above. For a reader looking for an-depth discussion of any of the above however, this would not be the book to read. It is only intended as a survey of the above topics and in that it succeeds.

The CD is very beautifully read and quite eloquent. Unquestionably one of the best audiobooks this reviewer has had the pleasure to listen to (and this reviewer listens to many). The reader is always enthusiastic, never monotone and the accent captures well both the times and the author. Very good for long trips as well as listening to on one's daily commute to and from work (when one is most tired). The audio portion of the book is a five star while the content itself is a four star.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Treasure from Janet Browne 6 Aug. 2008
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When it comes to Darwin and Darwin-related issues, I have found Janet Browne's works to be outstanding contributions. Her two volume biography of Darwin is commanding in its mastery of the pertinent materials; a legacy in part of her many years working on the Darwin Correspondence project. For those of us on this side of the Atlantic, the good news is that she was recently appointed Professor of the History of Science at Harvard, leaving her long-time perch at the Wellcome Institute in London. In addition to being definitive, her books and articles are just a pleasure to read--here is Darwin at the height of his powers doing significant work and leading a happy and productive upper-class Victorian scientific life.

This is one out of a series of short books entitled "Books That Changed the World." It is yet another example of the recent trend toward concise volumes (this one runs 174 pages including index) that, despite their brevity, cram in a tremendous amount of useful information. After a brief introduction, the first two chapters are mini-biographies of Darwin prior to publication of the "Origin." As always, Browne is interested on the books and ideas (Lyell, Malthus, etc.) that shaped Darwin's own perspective. Since Browne knows more about Darwin than anyone else, these brief chapters are rich indeed in insight and perception--small gems. Next, Browne moves on to the actual publication of the "Origin" and the Victorian intellectual framework into which it was released. The controversy the book unleashed is covered in the next chapter, perhaps the longest and surely the most concentrated in the book. If anything, too much information is included here, especially for readers new to Darwin and Victorian science, and it is covered rather quickly. The final chapter deals with developments occurring from Darwin's death up until virtually the present, particularly in genetics and other scientific developments ultimately upholding Darwin's thesis.

The book includes brief notes and a short bibliography, as well as a fine index. "Origin of Species" did indeed "change the world" and this fine introduction hopefully will facilitate greater and wider understanding of Darwin's enormous contribution to science and our understanding of the world we inhabit.
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm glad to be able to add it to my library 29 July 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most famous books ever written. Every educated person should have some familiarity with it. I'm glad to be able to add it to my library. This book arrived undamaged and quickly. Thanks.
5.0 out of 5 stars A good look at Darwin and his theories. 8 Aug. 2016
By Keith Mino - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Origin of Species" met my expectations by explaining Darwin's theories and by providing an overview of his life in a brief format.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history and explanation of Darwin's evolutionary theory 8 Dec. 2013
By Ashland VA Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting view of Darwin's life and times as well as some of his interactions with colleagures,and reaction to Origin of Species and Descent of Man is presented in a logical and flowing narrative. The only reason for four stars instead of five is that I wanted to know more about some topics.
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