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Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

(Charles Darwin #2)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  683 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In 1858, Charles Darwin was forty-nine years old, a gentleman scientist living quietly at Down House in the Kent countryside. He was not yet a focus of debate; his "big book on species" still lay on his desk as a manuscript. For more than twenty years he had been accumulating material for it, puzzling over the questions that it raised, trying to bring it to a satisfactory ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published October 5th 2003 by Princeton University Press (first published September 10th 2002)
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Chris
Aug 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the first volume of Darwin's biography more than the second. There are two possible reasons for this. First, I was more drawn to the stories of Darwin's youth, and his explorations while aboard the Beagle. Second, I was "Darwined out," and after 800 or more pages of dense biography, I grew weary. Whatever the case, Browne's acheivement is memorable. And he my hero. ...more
Brett
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, science
The Power of Place is the second part of Janet Browne's two-part Darwin biography. I've enjoyed these volumes immensely and definitely recommend them to anyone interested in Darwin's life and the broader context of his scientific work. These are certainly a great deal more informative than Darwin's own autobiography, which, to be fair, was never really meant for public consumption.

This ends my Darwin reading series. I've read Origin of Species, as well as Voyage of the Beagle, Descent of Man, Au
...more
Sher
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Book 34 2012 Reading Challenge
This book will be one of my top books for 2012. I read Vol 1 in 2011, and Vol 2 is just as amazing, fascinating, and absorbing. The biography is a rich look into Darwin's psyche and of those closest to him - family and friends. The way of science in the 19th century is captivating and the way a rich country gentleman comes to create theories that dominate the modern mind - is also amazing. It couldn't be done today, because we require credentials, double blind studi
...more
Feisty Harriet
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the second book in a 2-part biography on Darwin by Janet Browne and covers the bulk of Darwin's life and writing career, spent primarily in his country estate in Down/Downe. While meticulously researched and full of all sorts of tid-bits on the life of Darwin, his family, friends, correspondents, enemies, and colleagues, I will admit to liking the first book much more; it covered his 5-year voyage on the Beagle which was far more fascinating to read about than his 8 years researching bar ...more
Ralph Miller
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I took my time reading the 2 vols. of this biography, simply because I did not want it to end. The best, and certainly the longest, biography I have ever read. The first vol. covers D.'s life up to his return from the voyage of the Beagle (5 yrs.!) and his attempt to bring some order to the specimens and discoveries and ruminations of this monumental adventure. The 2nd vol. deals with everything following that, and can be a little dull at times since he was often very ill (probably from some chr ...more
Cary Fitzgerald
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great biography -- probably one of the few biographies I plan on going back and reading again. Great story of a man, an age, and a theory. At the end of it, I found myself wishing I could sit down and spend some time with this fascinating, likable man. This is the second half of Janet Browne's two-part biography, and should be read together with "Voyaging." ...more
Emma
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really great biography, very even factual and measured voice, and lots of citations and good historical context. Melancholy at times.
Susanne
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional biography. One of the best that I have read. Now on to volume 1.
Jessica
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quick, good read for all writers. You will feel buoyed and validated in Goldberg’s hands.
Chris Leuchtenburg
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Second in two volume bio.

“The year which has passed has not, indeed, been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize, so to speak, the department of science on which they bear.” -- Thomas Bell, President of the Linnaen Society, after Darwin’s and Wallace’s papers were presented. p. 42

“Natural selection was not self-evident in nature, nor was it the kind of theory in which one could say, ‘Look here and see.’ Darwin had no crucial experiment that conclusively demonstr
...more
Arthur Van
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
A beautiful two volume set about one of history’s greatest scientists. A revolutionary through his work on evolution.

The first book deals with Darwin’s younger years and mainly treats his around the world trip on the Beagle. A beautiful journey and great adventure. But also, a painful one for the young Darwin, due to the fact that he got seasick every time he climbed on board.

The second volume is dedicated to the scientific work that followed the journey around the world. The building of a rev
...more
Ben
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is quite an excellent biography. It spares no detail (it's two big volumes), but Browne does manage to weave it together into an engaging and enlightening story. By forces largely outside of Darwin's control, he found himself on the H.M.S. Beagle. He gathered a lifetimes worth of information on that trip, which he gradually formed into his theory of natural selection much later in life.

Darwin's life was a life of privilege. Preferential treatment got him on that boat. By being a member of t
...more
Elizabeth
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Yes! I finished Volume 2. This detailed account of Darwin's writing and the conversations, arguments, and papers that ensued following The Origin of the Species is fascinating. Any one who doesn't believe in evolution should read these books (although I realize it's asking alot). The theory of evolution was not wildly accepted and was discussed and thought about..and is still being discussed.

Darwin himself is such a likable man...he loved his family and friends and tried to give credit to colle
...more
Greg
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fitting second piece to Voyaging. This biography is a detailed picture of a real man, and you feel like you know something about who Darwin was at the end. Browne unflinchingly reveals Darwin's foibles and shortcomings, and gives equal credit to his excellent qualities. She also does a tremendous job of painting the context of Darwin's life for modern readers. Darwin was certainly a smart, imaginative, resourceful man, but he was also a product of his time and place. Without the good descripti ...more
Tim
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I enjoyed this second part of Janet Browne's biography of Charles Darwin. This part covers the post-Origin period as Darwin released his theory to the world and coped with the reaction.

In some ways this volume is drier than Volume 1: it doesn't feature the travelling, the adventure and the dynamism of a young man growing up. But I liked the in-depth discussion of Darwin's health problem, and the consideration of likely causes. And I also really liked the exploration of the new scientific establ
...more
Ken
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful biography to the man who challenged the - perfect - idea of creationism.

Darwin once wrote, "I never could believe that an inquisitor could be a good man, but now I know that a man may
roast another and yet have as kind and noble a heart as Sedgwick's."

Roasting one another... Indeed, they are.
...more
Andi
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. I stayed up late to finally finish this book. (I was NOT looking forward to the end. SPOILER ALERT: he dies.) I'm too tired (and a little sad) to write more than this: I can't imagine a better biography of Darwin than Janet Browne's two-parter. How on earth could anyone top this?? ...more
Glenyss
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished the second volume of this excellent and scholarly biography. I wanted to understand what shaped the man that shaped the way we see the world. Now I'm really looking forward to visiting Darwin's house in Kent this June. ...more
Jack Coleman
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous trip through the late Victorian era,shining light on the
character of Darwin and many of his contemporaries in science religion
politics and the arts.
John
Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A very satisfying biography of the man as well as the politics of science and scientific discovery in the Atlantic world of the 19th century.
Dan
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent
Ellen
Apr 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is hands-down one of the best books in history of science to be published in the last decade. Highly sophisticated and highly readable.
John Nelson
Sep 16, 2012 rated it liked it
The story of Darwin's final years. It was OK, but not nearly as interesting as the story of Darwin's years of scientific discovery. ...more
Lashonda Slaughter Wilson
Really delves into the person Darwin, interesting glimpses into his family life and illustrates how collaborative his works were.
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Review on it's way. ...more
Angela
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Great biography of Darwin, and Browne gets deeply enough into his ideas to intrigue and satisfy a philosopher.
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Elizabeth Janet Browne (née Bell, born 30 March 1950) is a British historian of science, known especially for her work on the history of 19th century biology. She taught at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College, London, before returning to Harvard. She is currently Aramont Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University

Other books in the series

Charles Darwin (2 books)
  • Charles Darwin: Voyaging

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
21 likes · 2 comments
“Nearly everyone Darwin knew regarded Roman Catholicism with distaste or horror.” 0 likes
“Darwin’s book implicitly laid claim to Adam and Eve, as time and again he showed how nature was cruel and full of blunders. The natural world has no moral validity or purpose, he argued. Animals and plants are not the product of special design or special creation. “I am fully convinced that species are not immutable,” he stated in the opening pages. No one could afterwards regard organic beings and their natural setting with anything like the same eyes as before. Nor could anyone fail to notice the way that Darwin’s biology mirrored the British way of life in all its competitive, entrepreneurial, factory spirit, or that his appeal to natural law unmistakably contributed to the general push towards secularisation and supported the claims of science to understand the world in its own terms. As well as rewriting the story of life, he was telling the tale of the rise of science in Victorian Britain.” 0 likes
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