Evanston Public Library's Reviews > The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen
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Jan 30, 2009

Charles Darwin had a big idea and it terrified him. Some say it was so disconcerting to him that his chronic nausea and severe stomach distress was caused by the very thought going public with it. What held him back was the dread of being wrong. He was never satisfied that he had enough proof or had done enough research. With the repeated encouragement of a few scientific lions of the day who felt that he was on the right track, and the looming threat of being beat out of the running by others, Darwin finally published his work in 1859 after 21 years of tweaking his basic idea.

Gleaning material from Darwin’s extensive notebooks and private letters, author Quammen does a fine job in taking us along for the ride as Darwin himself evolves from the young naturalist returning from a five year voyage on the Beagle to the country gentleman-scientist, a reclusive invalid and devoted family man grappling with what will turn out to be a mind boggling shift in natural science. Quammen’s treatment of evolutionary science does not weigh this book down as it might with an author of lesser skill. Here it is deftly explained in a lively, personal style with the just-right humorous touch to bring home a point, and a talent for making a long gone subject seem real and human rather than an iconic, almost godlike personality many of us conjure up when the name Darwin is mentioned.
(Barbara L., Reader’s Services)

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