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Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  33 reviews
"Sparkling . . . an extraordinary true-adventure story, complete with trials, tribulations and moments of exultation."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Award-winning cultural historian Iain McCalman tells the stories of Charles Darwin and his staunchest supporters: Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, and Alfred Wallace. Beginning with the somber morning of April 26, 1882—the day of
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Paperback, 423 pages
Published November 15th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2009)
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Maria
Darwin's Armada, is a marvelous narrative of the lives of four men: Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Joseph Hooker and Alfred Wallace.

Iain McCalman offers not an insight or analysis of the theory of evolution per se, but instead he gives us the fascinating history behind these great pioneer scientists in which you will delight yourself with exciting vivid experiences during their voyages, their struggles, their emotions and feelings as well as the invaluable friendship that eventually formed among
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Jim Dellit
I liked this book very much: it was a gift perfectly matched to my reading preference and current interests. The 'Armada' metaphor works well to capture both the influence of the sea journeying of the four main scientist protagonists (Darwin, Hooker, Huxley and the heroic Wallace), as well as their co-joined war on the science deniers of their day. It is pertinent to be reminded of how young these scientists were - in their early 20's - when they adventured into unknown environments and privatio ...more
Marian Willeke
The poignant experiences of the four natural historians who brought about the publication and battle for evolution in Victorian science is the crux of the book, ending with how the four met and the intertwining of their lives through to their successful ends. The key elements for me were the political maneuverings of presenting evolution to the scientific community as well as the climax of Darwin's late publication against Wallace's insights to the central theory of evolution that threatened Dar ...more
Jenny
I am fascinated by Darwin's life
Cassandra Kay Silva
I loved this book! Biography in general is so hit an miss in my experience. It is so hard to get a writer to bring in an emotional tug while sticking to facts and I really felt this author pulled this off. I had a bit of a hard time with the first half as the characters skipped around and it took some time to build the connections but by the second half he really hits you with the emotional ties of these men, and the scope of the work they were trying to achieve. I gained a huge appreciation for ...more
Gary Bryant
Excellent book covering the history of 4 important voyages by 4 men: Darwin, who developed the theory of evolution; Wallace, who independently came up with some of the key concepts and collected important evidence for it; Huxley, one of the great scientists of the age who was the chief public supporter and defender of Darwin; and Hooker, who conducted vital research during his travels, and became a leading light in supporting Darwin and Wallace. The book mixes details about the science and trava ...more
Travis Zuber
Excellent read... Author takes you on the adventure from discovery to publication to debating... Now if 50% of U.S. would just jump on board
J. D.
An excellent biographical survey of the early proponents of the now-
ascendant Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
Stan
slow read for me. well written, interesting look at science in the 19th century.
Blair
A wonderful insight into the events leading up to the publication of these ideas.
Scott
evolution combined with travel writing and south sea exploration. what could be better.
Shawn Callahan
I loved this book so much that I even wrote to the author to thank him for it.
Dorjan
This was an excellent and informative read!
Shirley
Darwin's Armada, by historian Iain McCalman, is a refreshing portrayal of the development of the theory of evolution over the 50 year span beginning in the early 1830s in Britain. McCalman describes the scientific naval voyages of Charles Darwin on the Beagle in the Southern Hemisphere(1831-36), and his great supporters who followed in this footsteps: Joseph Hooker, botanist (1839-43), Thomas Huxley, biologist (1846-50), and Alfred Wallace, zoogeographer (1844-66), who focussed his inquiries to ...more
Alison Dellit
I've read more than 50 books this year, and I reckon this is the one I enjoyed the most so far. McCalman understands the importance of story, and draws you in without speculating beyond what the record could tell you.
The book's narrative covers four mid-19th century sea voyages, and the scientific establishment in England. But the story is about how extraordinary experiences create relationships; about the impact of class, wealth and education on our lives, and the cominjg-of-age of four very di
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Mark V
I just finished reading this book minutes ago, and i must say that i want to read it again. It first chronicles the individual paths of darwin, hooker, huxley, and wallace on their voyages and finishes with their teamed battle against the established order of clerical creationists in the scientific community unwilling to accept any science that is contrary to their god. I wanted to give it a reread because you don't really have an appreciation of who these individuals are until they battle for t ...more
Carl
Everyone knows about Darwin's travels on the Beagle (don't they?), some know about Alfred Russel Wallace's travels in the Amazon and IndoPacific (leading him to the same theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, as well as pioneering studies of biogeography, etc.), but few know about the Southern Ocean Voyages of their contemporaries, Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley, helping them make their start in Natural History.

The author provides details about their early lives and travels, and suggests th
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Peter Matthews


This is a stimulating view of what it took to be a scientist in the nineteenth century. By dint of hard physical labour, acute observation and a very accurate summary of what is meant by "survival of the fittest" Professor McCalman describes the characteristics of the great observing naturalists who, along with Charles Darwin himself did for the biological sciences what Isacc Newton, Hooke and Boyle had done for the physical sciences two hundred years before. They based their conclusions not on
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David
Mar 19, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: intelligent people, enquiring minds
This is a fascinating book for those who appreciate the work of pioneers in science. This book shows many of the people who worked towards ideas that opened up our knowledge of evolution.
The times when this science was being discovered were both wonderful and dreadful. If James Cook hadn't shown how to alleviate scurvy, long voyages of science would have been at best dangerous, at worst, deadly.
This book addresses the early years of evolutionary theory, reminding us of the background to it's fo
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M
I found this to be an easy and informative read. I had not realized the degree of organization among Hooker, Huxley, Wallace, and Darwin in the defense of natural history and academic liberalism. At first I thought this was a somewhat exaggerated interpretation of history, but the historical reality of the "X-club" makes the concept concrete. The subsequent long-term ramifications of these activities included the way Kew RBG came to be administered and the reputation of the journal "Nature." Ver ...more
Jim
I thoroughly enjoyed the book: informed me in areas of my ignorance; a series of adventure stories; reaffirmed my view of Victorians as incredibly energetic. I was really unaware of the role of Wallace, et. al., along with Darwin, in the battle to document the theories of evolution. These were strong people influenced to fight as if in a war - one they intended to fight until victory. They took on the church-state power of the powerful British Empire, and won. It makes the residual evolutionary ...more
Losososdiane
Loved this history, especially the campaign waged by Darwin's fellow scientists for acceptance of an evidence- based theory of why and how we are here. This goes perfectly with The Age of Wonder. These two books are my faves right now. The singularity of focus that drove the lives of these men and women and their need to figure out the evidence and it's meaning is very, very impressive and inspiring. Science is all about being open to new questions and never building a bunker from which to defen ...more
Augusto Barros
One of the best I've read this year. It's impressive how much effort those guys (Darwin, Hooker, Huxley and Wallace) put in changing how we understand species and varieties. It's a testimony into how science finally broke the chains of dogma and religious ideas in biology. There's no way a rational person can doubt Evolution after understanding how much they saw and studied the whole world biology before reaching their conclusions. Awesome!
Josh Brock


I'm a sucker for a good science history book, and this one delivered. The main pitfall for this type of book is to be too academic. This book did a great job of avoiding that pitfall, instead maintaining a tightly edited narrative. If you enjoyed this book, I would highly recommend Richard Holmes' "The Age of Wonder".
BookBrowse
A must-read for anyone interested in how the theory of evolution developed. It is recommended particularly for those with an interest in the biological sciences, although non-scientific readers will find it very accessible. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs): http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/ind...
Ross
Interesting history of science around the men who defended Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection during the two decades following it's first publication in 1859, the famous "Origin of Species." Recommended for those with a strong interest in Darwin and his theory.
Martha
Many readers will know lots about Darwin and, perhaps, for them this book will not be so interesting. But I was very interested in the lives of these shipboard naturalists who changed the world. (It took me back to Ruth Padel's Darwin: A Life in Poems. 4 stars!)
James
Fascinating look at the four people who brought forth the theory of evolution. I had never heard of Alfred Wallace, and his story was more spellbinding than Darwin's. We are taught in school a very simplistic view of how the theory of evolution evolved.
Craig
Gripping. Interspersed with quotes from Darwin, Hooker, Huxly and Wallace combined with McCalman's prose gives both an informative and emotional experience.
Bette
Darwin was not alone in his travels - whether those by ship or those of the mind. A fascinating account of others who travelled much the same paths.
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Iain McCalman is an award-winning professor at the , where he lives. He has served as president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and director of the Humanities Research Centre at ANU. He lives in Sydney.
More about Iain McCalman...
The Last Alchemist: Count Cagliostro, Master of Magic in the Age of Reason The Reef: A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change The Seven Ordeals Of Count Cagliostro Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects of Australia An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture, 1776 1832

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