Darwin and the Barnacle

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2003 - Science - 309 pages
12 Reviews
"Pairing Charles Darwin and a rare species of barnacle as her unlikely protagonists, Rebecca Stott has written an absorbing work of history that guides the reader through the treacherous shoals of nineteenth-century biology. Beginning her narrative in the 1820s, even before Darwin's Beagle voyage, Stott examines the mystery of why Darwin waited over two decades before revealing his pivotal theory of natural selection. In 1846, as Stott relates, Charles Darwin already possessed a secret: an essay, sealed in an envelope and locked in his study drawer. The essay would later overturn human understanding of time and nature forever. But for almost thirty years Darwin kept it locked away." "Following Darwin's thoughts through thousands of letters he wrote during these years, Stott re-creates Darwin's investigations of the tiny barnacle he found on the shores of southern Chile - a specimen that didn't fit into any established definitions or accepted archetypes. As these letters reveal, Darwin promises himself a month or so to study this creature, but eight years later, his study filled with hundreds of barnacle specimens in labeled pillboxes sent from around the world, Darwin's eyes are fixed to a microscope, his mind preoccupied with the evolutionary and anatomical history of these bizarre sea creatures." "In a gripping narrative, Stott shows how Darwin in time would shock Victorian society not only with his presentation of evolutionary theories but also with his suggestion that man was indeed closely linked with thousands of other species, including the lowly barnacle. Drawing on a glittering cast of nineteenth-century scientists and literary characters, including George Eliot, Jean Baptiste Lamarck, T. H. Huxley, and Louis Agassiz, Stott portrays the fierce intellectual atmosphere of Victorian England."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

An outstanding treatment of Darwin's "Barnacle Years" by Rebecca Stott. Filled with neat little details and contextual elements, as well as not pulling any punches when it comes to the nitty-gritty of barnacle classification (some seriously taxing taxonomy). Very enjoyable armchair natural history. Read full review

Review: Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History's Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough

User Review  - Mark Edon - Goodreads

I thought this was fab. Disclaimer. I am a Darwin enthusiast or addict. Or as my wife would say, nutter. Enthralling history and some perceptive insights into the man and his work. Read full review

Contents

IV
1
V
22
VI
42
VII
68
VIII
92
IX
112
X
135
XI
154
XIII
194
XIV
216
XV
240
XVI
255
XVII
262
XVIII
273
XIX
298
Copyright

XII
172

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About the author (2003)

Rebecca Stott is a writer, academic, and radio broadcaster. She is an affiliated scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University.

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