By Steve Jones

The beginning of Species is the main recognized ebook in technological know-how yet its stature has a tendency to vague the genius of Charles Darwin's different works. The Beagle voyage, too, occupied in simple terms 5 of the fifty years of his occupation. He spent basically 5 weeks at the Galapagos and on his go back by no means left Britain back. Darwin wrote six million phrases, in nineteen books and innumerable letters, on issues as varied as canine, barnacles, insect-eating vegetation, orchids, earthworms, apes and human emotion. jointly, they laid the principles of contemporary biology.

In this fantastically written, witty and illuminating ebook, Steve Jones explores the family Darwin, the sage of Kent, and brings his paintings brand new. nice Britain was once Charles Darwin's different island, its geographical region as a lot, or extra, a spot of discovery than have been the Galapagos. It strains the good naturalist's moment trip throughout its modest panorama: a voyage no longer of the physique yet of the mind.

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Extra info for Darwin's Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England

Sample text

Six years later he was back on the Welsh coast at Towyn, where he noted some ‘curious insects’ (black and red Burnet Moths) not seen around Shrewsbury. Unlike the many naturalists of those times who filled cabinets with butterflies or shells to make a biological stamp-collection, he wondered, even as a child, quite why they were found in one place and not another. As he grew older, natural history became an all-embracing passion. ’ His preferred reading consisted of romantic novels (the sillier the story, the better, said his children) and he sold off his family heirlooms of Wedgwood pottery and Flaxman reliefs.

The animal was not a male but a female called Jenny and Charles Darwin had, some years earlier, visited its mother. He too spotted the resemblance between the apes on either side of the bars. The young biologist scribbled in his notebook that ‘Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work. ’ Seventeen years after Victoria’s visit, in 1859, he published the theory that proved the Queen’s kinship, and his own, to Jenny, to every inmate of the Zoological Gardens and to all the inhabitants of the Earth.

A new species is born. Natural selection is a factory that makes almost impossible things. It manufactures what seems like design with no need for a designer. Evolution builds complicated organs like the eye, the ear or the elbow by piecing together favoured variants as they arise. Almost as an afterthought, it generates new forms of life. Its tale as told in The Origin of Species turns on the efforts of farmers as they develop new breeds from old, on changes in wild creatures exposed to the rigours of nature and the demands of the opposite sex, on the tendency of isolated places to evolve unique forms, and on the silent words of the fossils that tell of a planet as it was before evolution moved on.

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