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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (Great Discoveries)
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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution

(Great Discoveries)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,199 ratings  ·  348 reviews
The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (Great Discoveries)
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 31st 2006 by W. W. Norton (first published 2006)
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Coral I don't see why not. My evolution course is required to read it. We are suppose to highlight and turn in anything that moves or stands out to us,…more I don't see why not. My evolution course is required to read it. We are suppose to highlight and turn in anything that moves or stands out to us, along with writing a paper based on these "highlights". Easy for kindle editions, for hardcopy books, people have to type them up. (less)

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Michael Perkins
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a kind of companion volume to The Origin of Species, though you need not have read that book to fully appreciate this one. The book covers the period after Darwins return, in 1836, from his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle, to his publication of Origin in 1859, when he was 50, to the end of life at age 73.

With the help of other top scientists, most especially Charles Lyell (Principles of Geology) and the brilliant botanist, Joseph Hooker, Darwin sifted through his treasure trove
May 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Darwin or Natural Selection
Shelves: science
The Reluctant Mr. Darwin presents Charles Darwin the man in relief against the simplicity and near perfection of his most lasting ideas. Using Darwins own journals and correspondence David Quammen, brings the father of evolution to life. He illustrates beautifully the birth and development of the then shocking concept of natural selection. He asserts that natural selection, not evolution is Darwins major contribution. Quammen defines and differentiates between evolution and its mechanism natural ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I never realized that 80-87% of Americans reject what Darwin discovered about the evolution of species. How this careful, thoughtful scientist worked his way toward a persuasive and coherent theory makes suspenseful reading. He was a religious skeptic but no radical. A persistent curious thinker. Quammen is also a wonderful writer. There's nothing dry about this book.
Regina Lemoine
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Between 3.5 and 4 stars. This is a good supplement to the more rigorous biographies of Darwin, such as Janet Browns two-volume Charles Darwin: Voyaging and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, or an engaging introduction to Darwins life and work for the reader who isnt prepared to take on Brownes longer work. ...more
Full disclosure: Charles Darwin is my favorite historical figure. Learning about evolution (finally) as a freshman in college and reading from On the Origin of Species exposed me to an aspect of science that was severely lacking in my earlier education and made it clear to me that there was no place for a higher power or supernatural explanations in the natural world. It is shocking that in America, that the acceptance of evolution is so low, amongst the lowest of the industrialized nations, in ...more
This book is not an biography, but rather a description of the thought process that brought Darwin to his natural selection theory. That was exactly what I was looking for, and exactly what I got. The author has succeeded in describing why a reluctant Darwin - he rarely left his house, not even for the funerals of his daughter and father - eventually was able to comprise his different topics into a general theory, enabling him to write his groundbreaking book The Origin of Species and what the ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: purple
Subtitle: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution. This books is part of the Great Discoveries series, which I have realized I am starting to get "Completionist's Mania" on. I have half a dozen of them, and they look so nice together on the bookshelf. So far they've all been good, though.

A fair question about this book would be, should I read a book about "On the Origin of Species", before reading the actual book? Like, the one Darwin wrote? Well, I did,
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
With his usual elegant use of language David Quammen takes us through a brief tour of the influences that lead Charles Darwin to his insight into the natural world. Darwin, we learn, was enamored with the complexity of a species before his auspicious voyage on the Beagle. This spirited admiration settled into skilled but enthusiastic observation of life and remained with him even after he returned to Britain. This continued dedication to study and a desire to perfect his theory kept him from ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable look at Darwin post-Beagle. To be sure, Darwin isn't a very exciting person, unless you enjoy vomiting and rest cures, but Quammen does his best to gin up the dull spots and delays. The book gets going with the writing of On the Origin of Species and Quammen does an excellent job summarizing, elucidating, and criticizing it. There is also a good sidelong view of Alfred Russel Wallace and a nice introduction to genetics and how it and natural selection all tie together. I learned a lot ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A fascinating and charming book. Recommended not as an introduction to evolution, but to someone pursuing an interest in it.
Nancy Mills
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting and well written. More biography than science. But then, as the author strongly suggests, I should read "Origin of Species" and Darwin's other works, instead of just reading ABOUT Darwin.
Clif Hostetler
Jan 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I felt as though Charles Darwin was a personal acquaintance of mine by the time I finished this book. It is a very readable and colorfully written study of the great evolutionist Charles Darwin. It focuses on the period just after Darwins work aboard the Beagle, and sheds light on his work habits, personal life, and development as a thinker. The author brings to life both the man and his ideas.

Readers who make it all the way to the end of the book will be treated with a heart warming story
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it

I think Quammen is introducing persons to Darwin and encouraging them to read The Origin of the Species. Having read the original, I found the book sometimes redundant but enjoyable and a delight to read.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
While most people have at least a cursory understanding of the debate that continues to rage in Americas schools, many have not actually read the original hypothesis set forth by Darwin (and Wallace). Fewer probably still have read anything about Darwins life. I would guess that, for most, an opinion has formed in support or against this hypothesis based on assumptions posited from someone else. I have not read the full Origin of the Species. I have read Darwins autobiographical account of his ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good overview of Darwin and his work. Provides evidence as to why he was much more important than Wallace: discovered natural selection before Wallace; Wallace thought the human brain couldn't be a result of evolution (uses same bad logic as those who say the eye couldn't have evolved); Darwin came up with sexual selection whereas Wallace assumes natural selection is always a result of survival (we KNOW Wallace is wrong - go check out spiders that sacrifice themselves knowingly whilst getting ...more
Lisa Berry-Koeppen
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wonderful personal book about the struggles everyone goes through even famous scientists. Some parts were difficult to push through because they were so intricate and detailed, which is weird because I love that science stuff, but you can take only so much talk of mollusk sexual life and organs.
Bob Schmitz
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Very interesting book that takes Charles Darwin's life from after he returns from the voyage of the Beagle to his death. I figured that Darwin got back from his trip and wrote The Origin of the Species and that was that. Not so, it was 21 years later! I didn't realize that when he returned Darwin turned his samples over to taxonomists who noted that different species of birds and animals were located exclusively on different islands in the Galapagos and elsewhere. They notified him and he then ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Bravo! Superb! A remarkable story told wonderfully. David Quammen is a skilled craftsman. Hes created an intimate portrait about a most reluctant and highly methodical genius, who ranks beside the likes of Copernicus, Newton and Einstein.

Quammen tells the story of Charles Darwin from the time he ends his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle until and through the publication of his most famous work: "On the Origin of the Species." How the young bible-quoting ships naturalist noted for his piety comes
Danny Ferguson
To me Charles Darwin is one of the coolest people to learn about. He had an easy yet pretty difficult life. He never really seemed to struggle with money and other expenses because of his wealthy father, and then from the money from his books. But when realized that natural selection was how the many organism came about, I mean it took like 20 years to publish his book because he didn't want to upset people, which in my opinion is what made him sick for all those years. Plus he lost a few kids, ...more

The Reluctant Mr Darwin

autumn 2012
partial biography

I know, there are lies, lies and lies, and then there are statistics; unhappily though, it is very scary the number of Americans
who do not go along with materialistic evolution.

Is there room for yet another book on Darwin? As it turns out, there is, when it is laid out for brevity, incorporates modern
language and only dealing with Darwin's mental processes in the years after the field work. Whilst
Cierra Hirst
i enjoyed this book i think it gave a new look at Charles Darwin, a more personal look. it was a journey you where the partner as Charles Darwin as he deals with the true implication of his theory and gaining the courage necessary to publish it. however i struggled with David quammen mostly because of the every so skillfully places jabs at religion. I'm very religious and i believe in evolution there is no contradiction. Mr. Quammen on one page would state that evolution is no replacement for ...more
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific way to lean about Darwin. Having recently read the much longer biography by Desmond and Moore, I was impressed by how well Quammen presented the life and, more important, the work in such a limited space.
This is the Darwin book to read first. Although it doesn't feel cursory, Quammen skips over the first 30 or so years of Darwin's life and begins his story after the travels aboard The Beagle. Quammen says that those adventures are well known and that he thinks the
Apr 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Despite my adoration for Darwin and his theory, before I read this book I knew little about his process from discovery to publication. I still can not believe that he came up with naural selection and survival of the fittest BEFORE the discovery of MEndelian genetics. I enjoyed this read, and the bibliography has added more titles to my "to read" list at home.
Dec 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I couldn't rate too high. The writing is good and the history is solid, but I've read better and more interesting biographies about Darwin. I suppose that's the curse of picking such a famous man as your biography subject.
Kauther, A.
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book is very exciting and engaging. It shows more of Darwin's working life than his personal life. Still, it is very interesting to see how the greatest theory of biology was conceived, incubated, and, subsequently, born.
Shannon Mitrovich
I cant listen to the speaker of this book. He should never be paid for this. Awful voice. I'll have to read the written book.
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The finest little history of the underpinning of all natural history. Anyone even the slightest bit interested in biology should give this brief and breezy book a whirl!
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reading was fun and easy. I enjoyed learning the process of Darwin's Transmutation theory and learning about him personally and a little bit about it his biography.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brief outline of Darwin and Wallace's scientific thought mostly from after the Beagle voyage until the publication of On the Origins of Species. A good book. Seems fair.

However after reading this, I still don't understand what exactly Darwin discovered. Evolutionary thought is a descriptive science, not a mathematical or experimental science. At least not in Darwin's day. Evolution had been posited for millennia since Aristotle. The mechanism of natural selection had been published already by
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tremendous book -- perfect blend of sophistication but understandable explanation for the newcomer to the topic. The author makes a really smart decision by starting in the middle so to speak, after Darwin has done his field work that will lead him to his amazing ideas. This speeds up the process of getting to the intellectual heart of Darwin's evolutionary-revolutionary concepts. (There's nothing wrong with learning about his work on the HMS Beagle, by the way, or reading Darwin's famed book ...more
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David Quammen (born February 1948) is an award-winning science, nature and travel writer whose work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Outside, Harper's, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times Book Review; he has also written fiction. He wrote a column called "Natural Acts" for Outside magazine for fifteen years. Quammen lives in Bozeman, Montana.

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