'The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882'
By Charles Darwin (Author), Nora Barlow (Editor)
Charles Darwin's Autobiography was first published in 1887, five years after his death. It was a bowdlerized edition: Darwin's family, attempting to protect his posthumous reputation, had deleted all the passages they considered too personal or controversial. The present complete edition did not appear until 1959, one hundred years after the publication of The Origin of Species. Upon its appearance, Loren Eiseley wrote:
"No man can pretend to know Darwin who does not know his autobiography. Here, for the first time since his death, it is presented complete and unexpurgated, as it exists in the family archives. It will prove invaluable to biographers and cast new light on the personality of one of the world's greatest scientists. Nora Barlow, Darwin's granddaughter, has proved herself a superb editor. Her own annotations make fascinating reading."
The daring and restless mind, the integrity and simplicity of Darwin's character are revealed in this direct and personal account of his life―his family, his education, his explorations of the natural world, his religion and philosophy. The editor has provided page and line references to the more important restored passages, and previously unpublished notes and letters on family matters and on the controversy between Samuel Butler appear in an appendix.
Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, eminent as a collector and geologist, who proposed and provided scientific evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selection came to be widely seen as the primary explanation of the process of evolution in the 1930s, and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. In modified form, Darwin’s scientific discovery remains the foundation of biology, as it provides a unifying logical explanation for the diversity of life.
Darwin developed his interest in natural history while studying medicine at Edinburgh University, then theology at Cambridge. His five-year voyage on the Beagle established him as a geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin investigated the transmutation of species and conceived his theory of natural selection in 1838. Although he discussed his ideas with several naturalists, he needed time for extensive research and his geological work had priority. He was writing up his theory in 1858 when Alfred Russel Wallace sent him an essay which described the same idea, prompting immediate joint publication of both of their theories.
His 1859 book On the Origin of Speciesestablished evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. He examined human evolution and sexual selection inThe Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, followed by The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books, and in his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.
In recognition of Darwin’s pre-eminence, he was one of only five 19th century UK non-royal personages to be honoured by a state funeral, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, close to John Herschel and Isaac Newton.