Darwin: His Life, Family, Friends, and Critics
College for Seniors course, Fall 2008
Laurent Hodges (LHodges @ iastate.edu; www.AmesIowa.US)
Here are links to the eight PowerPoint presentations (all of them large files, naturally) that were used in class. You can open them and then save them to your own computer.
This course, which will prepare participants for all the Darwin activities scheduled for 2009 – the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Life – will be taught on Wednesday afternoons from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on September 17 and 24; October 1, 8, and 29, and November 5. This is not a course on evolutionary biology, although Darwin’s main ideas will be discussed in some detail, but rather will focus on people: Darwin himself, his wife and children and relatives (including many famous ones); his predecessors (Linnaeus, Buffon, Lamarck, Buckland, etc.); his close colleagues (notably Joseph Hooker, Charles Lyell, Asa Gray, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Alfred Russel Wallace); his critics (Adam Sedwick, Richard Owen, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Admiral Robert FitzRoy (Darwin’s captain on the HMS Beagle), Louis Agassiz, and the great physicist William Thompson, Lord Kelvin), and many others.
PowerPoint presentations will be used in class. There are no assigned readings, but participants are encouraged to read books by and about Darwin and the others discussed in this course.
There is a web site for this course, most quickly found by going to www.AmesIowa.US.
Complete works and much other material relating to Darwin and his contemporaries can be found at the British Darwin On-Line site (darwin-online.org.uk). These include (or will include, when finished) all his books, articles, letters, dairies and other private papers, obituaries, reviews, photos, etc. For example, all six editions of On the Origin of Species are online. Most items are available either in text form or image form (actual scans of the original books or papers), even in a side-by-side version showing both the text and the images, plus there are also audio versions of many items.
A general web site of interest is the Project Gutenberg site, which contains texts of many books and other written works, organized by author and by title. For example, many of the works of Darwin, Huxley and Wallace are found there.
William Irvine, Apes, Angels, and Victorians (1955). A wonderful, always-fascinating study of the lives of Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley and how they intersected and affected Victorian England.
Edward J. Larson, Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (2004) is a fine history of evolutionary ideas, including a chapter on Darwin.
Darwin, Charles (1809 – 1882)
The best biography of Darwin is generally considered to be Janet Browne’s two-volume biography: Charles Darwin: Voyaging (2002) and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2002).
Other well-known biographies exist, such as the older one, Charles Darwin and His World (1965) by Julian Huxley and H. B. D. Kettlewell which is particularly charming because of its many photographs and heavy use of quotations directly from Darwin’s publications and letters. There is also the 1991 biography, Darwin, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore.
Darwin’s great-great-grandson Randal Keynes wrote the touching Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution (2001).
A good, short, recent biography is David Quammen’s The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (2006).
There are also more specialized works on parts of Darwin’s life, particularly about his voyage on the HMS Beagle.-
Darwin, Erasmus (1731 – 1802)
Paternal grandfather of Charles Darwin; a physician and poet. His major biological works are:
Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825 – 1895)
Adrian Desmond: Huxley: From Devil’s Disciple to Evolution’s High Priest (Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1994, 1997). 820 pages; originally published as two separate volumes.
Lyell, Sir Charles (1797 – 1875)
This famous geologist’s best-known work is the 3-volume Principles of Geology (1830 – 1833), which he continually revised during his lifetime; its second volume dealt with organic life on earth. He also wrote Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man (1863), as well as two books on travels in North America.
Wallace, Alfred Russel (1823 – 1913)
Michael Shermer’s biography of Wallace is called In Darwin’s Shadow (2002); it was available free as a pdf file from www.wowio.com, which is currently being redone, and may be available again in the future.
Wallace also wrote an autobiography, My Life.
The complete works of Darwin on line can be found at Darwin On-Line. Here are some of the best ones to read:
Autobiography (published posthumously):
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Regard to Sex (1871)
The Origin of Species (first edition, 1859)
Ernst Mayr’s One Long Argument (1991) is an excellent introduction to Darwin’s arguments about evolution and the formulation of his ideas.
Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is (2001) is an excellent short introduction to evolutionary biology with lots of historical information, especially about Darwin’s ideas.
Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (1995) is a fine and thought-provoking work by a philosopher with a good scientific background.