The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
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The Autobiography of Charles Darwin

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  741 ratings  ·  83 reviews
When I left the school I was for my age neither high nor low in it; and I believe that I was considered by all my masters and by my father as a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect. To my deep mortification my father once said to me, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat- catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your...more
Paperback, 52 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1887)
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Tony
Darwin, Charles. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN 1809-1882. (1958; this ed. 2008). This is a relatively short autobiography that Darwin wrote for the benefit of his children, so that they would have some idea of who he was and what his antecedents were when he was gone from this earth. He spends most of his time talking about his years growing up and going to school. He also hits heavily on his turn from formal religion to atheism as he grew older. It is interesting how during his training f...more
Erik Graff
Jan 22, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Bill Ellos
Shelves: biography
One of the best ways to disarm critics of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection would be to get them to read his posthumous autobiography, originally edited by his son, then rereleased in an unexpurgated version by his granddaughter. Whatever one might believe about the bible, or punctuated equilibrium for that matter, one cannot read this memoir without coming to like this man. This was, after all, a fellow who dug an enormous hole in order to calculate earthworm distributions under...more
Armin
I just finished reading the 'Autobiography of Charles Darwin' a few minutes ago. Darwin portrays himself as an ordinary man with an extraordinary zeal for science. As he put it,

"My chief enjoyment and sole employment throughout life has been scientific work; and the excitement from such work makes me for the time forget, or drives quite away, my daily discomfort."

Darwin was a humble, mild-mannered Englishman whose great power of observation and critical analysis revolutionised our view of the wo...more
Andrea
I'm a bit fascinated by Darwin, though most of the interest in this is that it is what he himself chose to record for his descendants. It doesn't cover the Beagle voyage, as those journals were published elsewhere, so it's a rather general account of his growing up and his life upon return from his voyage. It gives a good sense of the man though, and the appendices are truly brilliant. Not so much the letters surrounding the ridiculously blown-up spat between himself and Samuel Butler, but the v...more
Caiti
This was a great little book to aid my quest to learn a bit about Charles Darwin.

Darwin's actual autobiography is pretty short and makes up only half of the volume. Not a riveting autobiography, but his rambles were pleasant enough, and there were a couple amusing anecdotes. I enjoyed it.

The remaining half is mostly devoted to letters and articles about some controversy between Darwin and Butler which I had absolutely no interest in, and the rest are a couple of Darwin's personal notes, which wa...more
Mel Bossa
Very interesting read. I especially enjoyed the fact that Darwin wasn't too great in school but ended up doing fantastic things. Passion and imagination and curiosity were really his motors...

I wish there would have been more details about his voyage through the Galapagos Islands, and I guess I'll have to read the Beagle book for that.

The one thing I came away with: Darwin believed that happiness was our natural state and the proof was in the many ways we seek out anything that gives us pleasure...more
Nicholas Maulucci
well, I learned that Darwin was an avid hunter for a good portion of his life. not a hunter for sustenance necessarily, but for the sport of it. he killed hundreds if not thousands of birds by his own admission. the last line in this autobiography states something like, I am surprised that so many scientists have been so moved by my writings who am one not so gifted. and from his own account, Darwin seemed to be somewhat average in many respects. an overall boring book, typical of England and th...more
Peregrino
Autobiografía redactada sin ninguna pretensión literaria, tal y como el autor aclara en sus primeras líneas. Se trata de un conjunto de recuerdos, más o menos organizados, que Darwin escribe para el recuerdo por parte de sus hijos. de esta manera, el autor de "El origen de las Especies" nos traza un recorrido de su vida, deteniéndose más en sus años mozos que, por ejemplo, en la más atractiva aventura del Beagle. Consigue describirnos un personaje de lo más gris, tímido, introvertido y poco atra...more
Katya Epstein
After reading Origin of Species I decided that I adore Charles Darwin, and after reading his autobiography, I adore him more. I doubt there have been many others so insightful and honest, so capable of seeing clearly what is in front of them, unclouded by outside opinion or preconception. He was apparently renowned for being humble and charming, and he certainly comes across that way here.
That said, this is not riveting read. It was published posthumously, edited by his son and later his grandda...more
Ethan D.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN is more a compilation of various texts written by Darwin that a formal autobiography. The book dwells on his early life through his research voyages on The Beagle and some years that follow as well as his reflections. Even without the full intention of writing an autobiography, Darwin wrote to successfully document early life from his adulthood.The editor added these later entries in with journal notes made from his journey with The Beagle, which later resulte...more
David
Es un libro interesante sobre algunas cuestiones mas que todo referenciales acerca de la vida y obra de Darwin, cortos pasajes sobre su niñez, sus amigos, su trabajo y algunos otros echos importantes en su vida. Escrito para sus hijos ya que (en sus palabras) le hubiese gustado poder leer un recuento de echos sobre la vida de su abuelo por él mismo. Está edición es completa ya que las pasadas tienen varias omisiones intencionadas echas por sus familiares debido a algunas declaraciones que podían...more
Mikael
Despite being a text never intended for publication, the autobiographical notes of Charles Darwin constitute surprisingly coherent and for the most part polished reading. In it, we get to see a much more personal side of the great man than is evident from his highly formal scientific writings, and it turns out he actually had a rather well-developed sense of humour.

Apart from the general outline of Darwin’s life, which is of course interesting in itself, there are also a number of charming anecd...more
Bjorn
When Darwin sat down to write his autobiography - more for his children's sakes than because he thought anyone outside his immediate family would be interested - he was 67 years old. He had travelled around the world, he had met the elite of 19th century English thinkers, he had published a number of books including at least two which would still be widely read 150 years later, and revolutionised the field of science in general and biology in particular.

After all this, he managed 120 pages of au...more
Rachel
This very short volume is not so compelling as a thrilling read, but I actually did it enjoy it, as it helped to contextualize Darwin's life and career. What we are introduced to is a very ordinary person--the child of a wealthy doctor, a mediocre student, and a spoiled young man more invested in riding to the hunt than in pursuing a meaningful profession. Then, however, he discovers a passion...collecting beetles, which leads to a lifelong obsession with entomology, zoology, botany, and geology...more
Tyler
Synopsis: Charles Darwin wrote his autobiography throughout the later years of his life. He intended it to be solely for his children, but his son first published the autobiography in 1887 (with most of the personal details omitted - which have now since been included). Darwin writes about his early life, school years and published works, spending very little on information about his family or other personal topics.

My Review: Very few books take me this long to read (4 weeks or so). Alison's had...more
Aurelien
Darwin portrays here himself in a short and humble autobiography, in fact not even intended to be published but, written above all for the sole benefits of his descendants.

We learn about his childhood's interest in (already!) insects, the authoritative figure of his father, and his calling as a clergyman up to the crucial turn in his life: the journey onboard the HMS Beagle. He then moves on to talk about his career and the social prestige he benefited, describing some high intellectual figures...more
Philip
Darwin comes across as a humane, moral and humorous man. Not entirely sure why that surprised me. The high point was his story of the French phrenologist who asked for his photograph, which he duly sent. A note was returned stating that he had a skull worth ten clerics. Apparently there's some sort of bump that indicates a proclivity for pastoring.
Jake
This was a short autobiography and from what I understand "carefully" edited by his son Francis. All the while I did thouroughly enjoy this, especially his early years, and his talks about certain professors he didn't like. It was neat to see that a man of great scientific importance was so bored and blah about school. I also like the part that he almost didn't get on to the "Beagle" because of the size of his nose. This wasn't a great book and he skips over a large section of his life (or his s...more
Charlene
It should be essential for anyone who has ever heard someone say, "Darwin said (insert Darwinism here)" to read not only Origin of Species but what Darwin thought of his life and work, in his own words.

This is possibly one of the best books I have ever read. Darwin's ability to self reflect is unmatched by anyone I have read to date. What a treat it is to be allowed to travel through the mind of a humble, compassionate, genius or a man who wrote with his whole heart. This book was originally in...more
Davor K
Unlike other biographies and autobiographies I read - this one left me without any real connection to the author.

I feel I have not been able to learn anything about Charles Darwin the person apart that he was very polite.

That is nice virtue, and I am certainly not looking into an autobiography to find an extension of gossip column - however he was a man that was so much under attack - you would expect he would be writing something about those, or something more about the Beagle voyage (which he...more
Chris
Charles Darwin was an amazing man, his scientific theories changed history forever and the importance of his works to the modern world can hardly be exagerated.

However, as with his 'Journey of the Beagle' and 'Origin of Spieces' I find his writing style very dry and difficult to read.

The portions of the book in which he talks about his family, childhood experiences and friends are very interesting and give the reader an excellent idea of his early life. Sadly the latter chapters of the book slip...more
Ashley
Brilliant.

Darwin treats himself as his own specimen. I think it is one of the most honest autobiographies I have ever read. Darwin is unapologetic in his passions and unafraid to recount his mistakes. Whether a fan of his research or not, I think the work gives an inside look into a man who was not afraid to pursue his passions, his intellect and the ramifications of both despite physical sickness, social push-back and years of what he himself describes as 'hard labor'.

I think this is a must re...more
Santino Maulucci
Uuuuuum...kind of boring. I did notice that he,at one time,believed every word of the Bible to be true. And, he did not mention evolution once in his autobiography.
LeeAnn *the crazy, hell on wheels crip*

i am not a scientific person, and this book is mostly about this part of his life...but Darwin
taught me something deeply insurmountable, that it will never be forgotten: it was in his last chapter

when Darwin was young, he loved art, music, reading poetry/shakespeare. as he aged and continued working, he never took time to enjoy activities. after writing/working so much, he tried enjoying these activities, and literally hated them or had no interest at all. Darwin wrote that it seemed the area[s...more
John Pilbeam
Really enjoyed this, it was for me a good insight into the man himself but also I particularly liked his views on those he met.
Steve
Dec 01, 2009 Steve rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a Darwin expert.
About 125 pp long, w/ another 125 pp worth of additional material (do we really need 40 pp on the Darwin/Butler controversy?). It is the 250th anniversary of his birth and the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of the Species. Time better spent reading Voyage of the Beagle or the Appleman/Norton Darwin (which has little Darwin in it, but over 200 yrs worth of essays about him and evolution). 30 yrs ago while working on an MA in English I became somewhat of an expert on Victorian...more
Sammie Pennington
I haven't COMPLETELY finished it, but I have finished the part of the book which is actually written by Charles Darwin and it was excellent. I think if anyone is endeavoring to read any of Darwins' other, more heavy works they should first read at least the autobiography section of this book. I find it really helps to get to know Darwin to be able to read his writing with better understanding.
And anyone interested in going into the field of naturalism or biology/botany/zoology I would GREATLY re...more
Lisa
This is a little book you can read in a day, made up of some scattered memoirs -- reminiscences, really. He originally put them together for his family's eyes only, and thus they're really charming and candid, a neat insight into such a famous and potentially remote-seeming man. He's a little humble, a little pompous (in a humble way), very drily funny in a lot of places, and highly earnest throughout -- a relateable guy, in other words. A very smart relateable guy. If you have any interest in D...more
Jen
This book was written by Darwin for his family, and not intended to be published. Because of that, perhaps (or perhaps because of his introspective mindset in his late 70s), Darwin writes with candor and humor about his father and his early education, as well as his health struggles and difficulties deciding on a career. His anecdotes and character-studies about family and friends often had me laughing aloud. Short and insightful, I recommend it to anyone interested in the lives of 19th century...more
David Horney
quite boring. this was written by mr darwin as a family history intended only for his children. when his son decided to publish it he took out all the interesting stuff. no mention is made of his family, daily life, personal beliefs habits. most of his writing are described and summarized--nothing "new".

i did find it fascinating that for each work he described it as "costing" him x amount of years/weeks/days. an interesting way to characterize your contributions to the world.
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12793
Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, eminent as a collector and geologist, who proposed and provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selec...more
More about Charles Darwin...
The Origin of Species Voyage of the Beagle The Descent of Man On Natural Selection The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals

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“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” 2185 likes
“...Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers... for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality... But I had gradually come by this time, i.e., 1836 to 1839, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow at sign, &c., &c., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.

...By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, (and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become), that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost uncomprehensible by us, that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me, to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitnesses; by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief... Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine.”
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