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Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  410 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
In a chest of drawers bequeathed by his grandmother, author Randal Keynes discovered the writing case of Charles and Emma Darwin’s beloved daughter Annie Darwin, who died at the age of ten. He also found the notes Darwin kept throughout Annie's illness, the eulogy he delivered at her funeral—and provocative new insights into Darwin’s views on nature, evolution, and the ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Riverhead Books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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May 18, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it
The controversy - be there any in the first place - is irrelevant. While reading this book on the plane to England the man sitting next to me asked "Is it for, or against?" "Neither," I responded, "it's a biography."

Randal Keynes is the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin and he deals with the life of his progenitor in an objective, scholarly and warm manner. In an interview with Diane Rehm, Keynes said that he wanted to portray Charles through the lens of family. He achieves this primarily t
მეცნიერების ისტორიაში ალბათ ერთ-ერთი ყველაზე ცნობილი პიროვნება, ყველას გაგვიგია ბავშვობიდანვე და გვინახავს მოხუცი წვეროსანი კაცის სურათი. ამ კაცმა თქვა რომ ჩვენ მაიმუნისგან წარმოვიშვით. ასე იცნობს დარვინს უმეტესობა, ბევრი რელიგიური ადამიანი დარვინს ურჩხულად ხატავს, უსულო მატერიალიზმის დამცევლად და ღმერთის ბუნებიდან გამძვებელად. ბევრი უბრალოდ შეუარცხყოფილია მაიმუნი წინაპრის გამო.
ეს შესანიშნავი წიგნი, ამ ზედაპირული წარმოდგენების მიღმა, იმ მოხუცი კაცის სურათის მიღმა, რომელიც სევდიანად იყურება და გ
Mar 31, 2012 Meg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, read-2012
An excellent combined personal history and history of an idea of the Darwin family and evolution. Highly recommended.


So far, impressive work. Last time I read a book about a historical person written by a descendant, it was weak.

I also wish I'd named my cat after Emma Darwin. Maybe I'll have to start telling people I did. So many excellent Emmas!
Nov 23, 2012 Warreni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Keynes has written a very intimate biography of his great-great grandfather, as it is sourced mostly from personal correspondences of Charles and Emma Darwin along with the writings and recollections of their children and grandchildren. Like most of Darwin's biographies, the book charts the progress of his thinking about the interrelationship between science and religion and the development of his "species book," but this is also very much the story of the post-Beagle Darwin's family life, the ...more
Aug 21, 2013 Kate rated it it was ok
To be honest, I didn't know that much about Darwin going into this, only that he was a Victorian biologist who came up with the theory of evolution. So I knew he was important to the study of humanity.

It's devastating to think that he lost a little girl.

Unfortunately, Annie wasn't the only young child to die in the Victorian Age (or any age).

There's a moment in the book where Keynes (a descendant of Darwin) mentions, briefly, a young "watercress" girl - an urchin selling watercress, from the
Apr 19, 2011 Ellen rated it liked it
This account of Darwin alternates between delving into his family life based on correspondence - which was to be expected - and into literature of the time. It read more like a trajedy, depicting a man who adored his wife and children, but after the death of his daughter Anna during which he saw no evidence of a benevolent god but only natural processes, was unable to discuss and connect with them, especially regarding spritual matters. Keynes unveils a picture of a man who was dedicated to his ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book before I saw the movie. Then while reading Return to Sodom and Gomorrah I found the perfect link to make me read it now. Charles Pellegrino did such a great job talking about our link to apes so I was ready to learn about Darwin. This book is great. I learned about Darwin the family man plus his work. A more complete portrait of the man than just the old man with the beard, and his thoughts on us and apes. Then I watched the movie "Creation". It wasn't well done at ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
This biography really touched my heart.

It's good to see Charles Darwin's life as a person, away from the whirlwind of controversy with which he seems to be inevitably (and sometimes unfairly)linked now. He was a complex and deeply affectionate man.

In spite of religious differences that sometimes divided them, Darwin and his wife were a loving partners and parents. They afforded their children a delightful childhood of liveliness, playfulness and affection, charmingly delineated in this book.

Faten Eassa
May 18, 2013 Faten Eassa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most people know the name Darwin but don't really know much about him. If u r interested in knowing facts about his life and how personal events had great significances and effect upon his theories, it's a must read. It's also good to know those people who have influenced Darwin like William Wordsworth and other great figures who were interested and inflluenced by his theories, like George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte and many others.
Steph Post
May 03, 2014 Steph Post rated it it was ok
I usually like this sort of non-fiction, but I pretty disappointed here. The story was rambling and disorganized, making it difficult to stay interested.
Fida Barake
Nov 23, 2012 Fida Barake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in the way Darwin came up with his theory, how he lived and what were the things that touched him most in his life, this book would definitley interest you. I liked it a lot
Nov 23, 2012 Renato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
Os homens de ciência são facilmente acusados de falta de emotividade, de aridez espiritual, de incompetência afectiva. A imagem do cientista solitário com os seus tubos de ensaio e ideias abstractas continua a propagar-se entre a camada da população que, infelizmente para a Humanidade, não obteve uma educação científica básica. Poucos homens de ciência na História tiveram de lidar com este problema tão exacerbadamente como Darwin, o génio que durante décadas se dedicou a uma ideia que ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This account of Charles Darwin's work and family life was written by his great grandson. It is an interesting look at how Darwin came to develop the theory of evolution. I especially was interested in how his conclusion that humans evolved out of natural processes from lower animals--and how that affected his notion of God.

The book also tells a great deal about family life in the 1800's. Darwin married his first cousin and they had 10 children. Two died as infants. They were related the the Wed
Sandy D.
This is confusingly titled "Creation" in 2010 (movie tie-in! which is so weird, as I can hardly think of a book less appropriate for making into a movie), and "Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution" in 2001 when it was first published in the UK.

Anyway, it's a biography by Charles' great-great grandson that emphasizes the Darwins' family life. It was sometimes a bit heavy going, with lots of side trips, including some into Unitarian vs. mainstream Anglican theology, Words
Stephen Murley
Nov 23, 2012 Stephen Murley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a nice read for any Darwin fan. As the son of a wealthy surgeon, Darwin also married into the Wedgewood China fortune and as a result, didn't have a "real" job his entire life.

The book catalogues the Darwin's daily life--work in the laboratory, writing and answering hundreds of letters, tea times, and various family outings. It is an idyllic picutre of 19th century manor life for the wealthy despite all the controversy, sickness, and other travails the Darwins experienced.

The book's bac
Chuck O'Connor
Mar 06, 2011 Chuck O'Connor rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Jerry Klinkner
Recommended to Chuck by: N/A
A loving portrait of Charles Darwin and one that is humbling in its description of the man's devotion to family, insatiable curiosity, intellectual charity, his inability to accept the sentiment of revealed religion once he better understood the savagery of nature; and his fear in expressing this insight because of what he imagined the societal implications to be. It fails however to give any insight into the dynamics between Charles and his wife Emma Wedgewood Darwin. Emma never abandoned her ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Kendra rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful biography that shows how very much human thought went into Charles Darwin's science and work as well as his own personal life and struggle with physical and emotional maladies, and with his own beliefs, and his concerns about the reception of his eventual publications. His relationship and dialog with his wife Emma is a striking partnership; it at once illustrates the prevailing attitudes toward his field of science and thoughts with the very real fear she had of not ...more
Martha Sofia Franco
Una mirada a la parte humana de la vida familiar de Charles Darwin, como la correlacionó con su vida profesional y el desarrollo de su teoría del origen de las especies, con un enfasis especial en la vida y prematura muerte de su hija mayor Annie: "Hemos perdido la alegría de la casa y el solaz de nuestra vejez...¡Si pudiera saber ahora con cuanta ternura y afecto seguimos queriendo su alegre carita y la querremos siempre!"

A look to the human side of Charles Darwin's family life, and how he corr
Melissa Mcdaniel
Feb 12, 2014 Melissa Mcdaniel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: science lovers, anyone
Shelves: favorites
A beautiful, thought-provoking account of Darwin's life. (And this is coming from someone who never reads nonfiction or biography!) Starting right before the marriage of Charles and Emma, and continuing until his wife's death, this book focuses on how Darwin's personal relationships affected his beliefs -- especially the deep religious fissure between Charles and his wife, and Charles's inability to overcome the death of his ten-year-old daughter. Keynes effortlessly interweaves Darwin's ideas ...more
Apr 22, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sarah by: NPR
This book really put a human face on Darwin. I didn't realize how sensitive he was -- physically and emotionally -- largely because of his intellectual strengths. Modern doctors would have filled him up with anti-anxiety and -depressant meds.

Some of this issues he struggled with were difficult to understand at first because our views are so different today, so that made me think.

It was neat to read about the famous people the Darwins rubbed shoulders with in society. Charles's wife had piano le
Nov 23, 2012 Hannelore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creationism/God and evolution are not mutually exclusive. Darwin was obsessed with work, very conflicted about revealing his revolutionary findings because even his wife was not comfortable with them until he let her be involved in making a decision about the results. Darwin was so conflicted about his life's work he physically suffered numerous illnesses and, almost a recluse, he isolated himself from the pleasures of having a family. His findings though are the basis for numerous medical ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's hard to believe there was enough narrative here to build a movie around. The book spends a lot of time talking about the domestic arrangements in the Darwin household and very little talking about the seminal work that Darwin produced. Little is said of Darwin's struggles to reconcile his theory of the origin of species with the prominent religious views of his day, nor how the public at large received his views. We are given some taste of what a few theologians thought, but mostly the ...more
Feb 27, 2010 Gail rated it it was amazing
The biographer sets Darwin and the development of his theories in the social, cultural and intellectual times. I had not known that Darwin was influenced by the writings of Wordsworth, nor that Darwin's observation of Jenny, the first orangutang at a London zoo, and subsequent comparison of the ape's behavior to that of his infant son influenced his theories. The author quotes extensively from letters between Darwin and his wife, and makes the case that Darwin was concerned that publication of ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Jo rated it really liked it
Overall, I found this fascinating. I had been looking for a biography of Darwin, and I'm glad I chose this one. I love how it features Charles' family life as well as his scientific career. However, the author tends to talk about things, in detail, that I felt were irrelevant. Examples: there was two pages about the water cure and its history; paragraphs on what their cousins' house looked like; passages from books written during that time period about various things the Darwins would have ...more
Dec 26, 2012 Grayson rated it it was ok
This was a look at the home life of Charles Darwin. It seemed to be that the title promised more than it delivered. The daughter in question, Annie, seemed to be an enigma rather than a beloved special child. There was some interesting stuff about his attitude towards his children and the effect Annie's death had on him, but it didn't seem as tightly tied to his work as the author seemed to think it was. It was an okay book. I'll probably have forgotten I read it in a month, honestly.
Jun 02, 2010 Ross rated it liked it
The author is Darwin's great great grandson and the book is substantially a documentary compiled from Darwin's, his familie's and his assoiates letters and writings.
I feel this is strictly a book for readers with a large interest in the biological sciences and an even greater interest in Darwin himself.
A much better book for the general reader is "Charles and Emma" which I strongly recommend for almost everyone.
Nov 23, 2012 Carrie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I actually gave up on this one. As much as I enjoy biographies, it was as if the author felt like he had to include every minor detail from the diaries and letters he had, whether they were relevant or not. When I got to the descriptions of every single game the children played (one of them once drummed on the table with his spoon!) I decided that in this case, the movie may actually be better than the book.
Sue Page
Sep 13, 2013 Sue Page rated it it was ok
Goodness, it's not often I struggle to read a book, but this was pretty heavy going. The familial connection gives the author a unique viewpoint, but for my taste the book could have delivered more. Its tone reflects the era - slow, sedate, detailed - such a contrast to today's world. There are threads of interest woven throughout, and I learnt a little more of Darwin's character (as opposed to his achievements), but it's certainly not a package that would appeal to a wide audience.
May 17, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
I've had this book for years - tried reading it a long time ago and didn't get very far. I saw the movie "Creation" recently which prompted me to give it another go. I again found it difficult to get into, but once I got to the middle I warmed up to it and found Darwin's struggles as he balanced being a father, husband and revolutionary scientist quite touching.
I enjoyed it a fair amount. The subject matter is really interesting to me. It dealt more with the family life of Charles Darwin than his science, and dwelt a lot on the loss of his daughter Annie, which profoundly affected him. It moved very slowly much of the time and probably could have been shortened a fair amount. But overall I found it worthwhile.
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