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Cover image for Charles Darwin : the life of a revolutionary thinker
Title:
Charles Darwin : the life of a revolutionary thinker
ISBN:
9780823414949
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, c2001.
Physical Description:
144 p. : illustrations, map.
Reading Level:
1110 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
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Book J 921 DARWIN 1 1
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Summary

Summary

Patent debunks several commonly held beliefs about Darwin as she explores the life of the young man, "ill suited to education," who would turn the world of science upside down. A poor student, Darwin preferred hunting to scholarship, and he drifted from medicine to the clergy in search of a suitable career. He satisfied his personal curiosity by taking geology and botany courses, and it was a geology connection that led him to board the Beagle. Patent recounts his momentous four-year journey, noting that it was not some epiphany in the Galapagos that led to his theory of natural selection. Rather, he came to it slowly, after returning home and applying other scientists' ideas about biological adaptation to his firsthand observations. Throughout, the author balances the man as scientist with the man as devoted husband and father, building a blended portrait of an individual who let his observations shape his beliefs instead of the other way around. Numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations add visual appeal, and a chronology, a map, notes, and a glossary are appended.


Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-These are heady days in genetic science, and this sober, penetrating life of the man who, more than any other, got that particular ball rolling presents convincing evidence of his genius. Drawing from published sources as well as the thousands of letters Darwin left behind, Patent creates a vivid picture of the man as a gregarious, loving father, beset by ill health for most of his life, as well as a probing thinker, careful observer, and gifted writer. Sometimes Darwin's woes verge on comedy; strongly susceptible to seasickness, he actually spent all but 18 months of the Beagle's nearly 5-year voyage on land. Patent keeps her focus close to the man, only hinting at the popular furor engendered by Origin of Species, but describing in detail not only how Darwin developed his theories, but also how carefully he laid the groundwork for them within the scientific community, and how they influenced his subsequent research. She closes with a map of the Beagle's journey; lists of prominent contemporary scientists; and print, electronic, and Internet resources-all of which at least help to compensate for the dim, scanty photos and prints. Readers with an interest in the idea that has become "the most powerful tool we have in understanding how the living world works" will find this a rewarding account of its origins. Steer readers wishing to trace the theory of evolution's course up to the present to the final chapters of Rebecca Stefoff's Charles Darwin and the Evolution Revolution (Oxford, 1998).-John Peters, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

This thoroughly researched but clinical biography presents the life and theories of one of history's most innovative and influential scientists. Patent (Prairie; Biodiversity), a trained scientist, excels when dissecting Darwin's experiments and thought processes, and her analysis is clear and passionate. But elsewhere, the writing becomes labored (e.g., a commentary on the dress code at Cambridge, a convoluted discussion of the scientist's early questionnaires) and distracts from Darwin's groundbreaking work and approach. The volume begins on a strong note with a prologue that connects the challenges of curing the modern common cold and AIDS (due to their evolving nature) with Darwin's theory of natural selection; in this way, Patent makes Darwin's work immediately relevant for contemporary readers. She also debunks several popular myths regarding Darwin, including the legend that he formulated his theory of evolution in its entirety during his five-year journey as naturalist aboard the Beagle; in truth he devoted an additional 26 years after his journey to scientific observation before publishing The Origin of Species in 1859. While the text conveys chronological details regarding Darwin's personal life (his wife, children, tragedies and friendships), it rarely captures the relationships or passions of the man, nor the mood of the era. Ages 10-up. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Horn Book Review

(Middle School, High School) Patent portrays Charles Darwin as a scientist who, because of his ""passion for collecting,"" developed the training and discipline that led him to his life's work as a naturalist. In her appraisal of Darwin's life and achievements, Patent presents conflicting opinions from scholars (""Most Darwin biographers describe Charles's father as a busy physician and absentee father who believed his son was a poor student destined for mediocrity. However, [scholar] Janet Browne...presents a very different picture"") and is clear when she draws her own conclusions (""Chances are, however, that Charles's illnesses were caused by a combination of factors""). Direct quotes are documented adequately; many thoughts and feelings are not. A wealth of pertinent back matter is appended: a timeline interspersing happenings in Darwin's life with events in the wider world; a map of the Beagle's journey; a glossary; an annotated list of friends and colleagues; a selected bibliography; a list of Internet resources; and an index. Photographs attributed to Patent, such as those of Galapagos wildlife, are frequently out of focus or poorly framed, whereas those of Darwin's notes and books allow readers to see his thinking process, from making lists to examining barnacles. The strength of this work lies in the considerable attention given to Darwin's scientific process of observing, questioning, collecting, hypothesizing, testing, concluding, and writing. Patent concludes: ""He helped teach biologists to ask, Why is that so?"" This biography shows readers how to ask the same question. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

In the introduction to Patent's cogent, thoughtful biography of Charles Darwin, she explains his importance as an icon of science, for without his discovery of evolution through the mechanism of natural selection, "biology makes no sense." Patent traces Darwin's life, chronicling his childhood love of collecting, a passion he later said in his autobiography "leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a virtuoso, or a miser," his now famous journey on the Beagle, his life as a naturalist, and his many contributions to science. At the time, it was believed that individual species were created separately by God and were therefore perfect and immutable. When Darwin became convinced that species could and do change over time, he acknowledged in a letter to fellow scientist Joseph Hooker that his ideas were akin to "confessing a murder." What readers should find inspiring and instructive is the way Darwin persevered. Despite various obstacles, including the fear of societal condemnation and his own ill health, Darwin struggled to figure out the vehicle for species change, integrating his ideas from a variety of sources, never giving up until his theory was whole. Additionally, youngsters should find the details of Darwin's life, his "houseful of servants," the highly ritualized way he organized his workday, as well as his related scientific interests and achievements, edifying and entertaining. This is not a piece that exactly pulls the reader along, but it is clear and informative and makes a creative life in science seem worthy and satisfying. (Biography. 10+)


Booklist Review

Gr. 7-12. Patent debunks several commonly held beliefs about Darwin as she explores the life of the young man, "ill suited to education," who would turn the world of science upside down. A poor student, Darwin preferred hunting to scholarship, and he drifted from medicine to the clergy in search of a suitable career. He satisfied his personal curiosity by taking geology and botany courses, and it was a geology connection that led him to board the Beagle. Patent recounts his momentous four-year journey, noting that it was not some epiphany in the Galapagos that led to his theory of natural selection. Rather, he came to it slowly, after returning home and applying other scientists' ideas about biological adaptation to his firsthand observations. Throughout, the author balances the man as scientist with the man as devoted husband and father, building a blended portrait of an individual who let his observations shape his beliefs instead of the other way around. Numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations add visual appeal, and a chronology, a map, notes, and a glossary are appended. --Randy Meyer


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