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Mary-Kay Wilmers: The Menopause, 10 October 1991

... millimetre I would go out of my mind. I used to think then that had I had the chance to marry Charles Darwin (or Einstein or Metternich) I might have been able to accept the arrangements that marriage entails a little more gracefully. In the Eighties, long since divorced, I decided that marriage to Nelson Mandela (or Terry Waite) would have suited me ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Personal and Public Affairs, 4 November 1982

... patented by Hesketh Pearson and, I think, Hugh Kingsmill). Shrewsbury School reminds me that Charles Darwin has again become a centre of controversy. The argument is far above my head and in any case does not stir my passion. On reflection, it seems to me unlikely that an entire system of animal development could be worked out after a single voyage ...


John Hedley Brooke, 23 May 1985

Just Before the Origin: Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Evolution 
by John Langdon Brooks.
Columbia, 284 pp., $39, January 1984, 0 231 05676 1
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China and Charles Darwin 
by James Reeve Pusey.
Harvard, 544 pp., £21.25, February 1984, 0 674 11735 2
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... concern for priority, testified to the fact that singletons were merely forestalled multiples. If Darwin had not got there first, someone else would. And we all know that, in a photo-finish, Wallace almost did; or, if we are to believe John Langdon Brooks, really did. If philosophers have been attracted to these historical sites, it is partly because the ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke, 21 July 1983

Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of DarwinA Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... The Darwin scholar, John Greene, once summarised the Darwinian revolution as the triumph of a dynamic and non-teleological structuring of nature over static, teological systems: the triumph of chance and change over design and permanence, the triumph of objectivity in the life sciences, of secularism and naturalism over clericalism and the supernatural ...

Bad Blood

Lorna Sage, 7 April 1994

Monkey’s Uncle 
by Jenny Diski.
Weidenfeld, 258 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 297 84061 4
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... faith was horribly called in question by the works of his (later enormously famous) passenger Charles Darwin. And there’s a third layer, a tribute to the other Victorians, in the form of Dodgson’s Alice, a mad hatter’s tea-party set in a pastoral landscape, where Charlotte (or one of the people she’s split into) converses looking-glass style ...

Consider the Hedgehog

Katherine Rundell, 24 October 2019

... insisting that hedgehogs collected grapes on their spines in order to carry them to their young. Charles Darwin wrote in 1867 that he had it on good authority that hedgehogs could be seen in the Spanish mountains ‘trotting along with at least a dozen of these strawberries sticking on their spines … carrying the fruit to their holes to eat in peace ...

On the Darwinian View of Progress

Amartya Sen, 5 November 1992

... It is now a century and a third, almost exactly, since the publication in 1859 of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In this period the view of evolutionary progress introduced by Darwin has radically altered the way we think about ourselves and the world in which we live. There are very few events in the history of ideas that can be compared in terms of power, reach and impact with the emergence of the Darwinian analysis of progress through evolution ...

Heroic Irrigations

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1990

The English Spa 1560-1815: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry.
Athlone, 401 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 485 11374 0
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The Medical History of Waters and Spas 
edited by Roy Porter.
Wellcome Institute, 150 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 85484 095 8
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... ce qu’ on pisse. Madame de Sévigné’s tribulations invite comparison with the experiences of Charles Darwin at Malvern, described here by Dr Janet Browne. This was the period of the heroic cold-water cure popularised by the peasant Vincenz Priessnitz at Gräfenberg in Silesia and profitably taken up by the doctors James Manby Gully and James ...

Make your own monster

Adrian Woolfson: In search of the secrets of biological form, 6 January 2005

Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
HarperCollins, 431 pp., £20, May 2004, 0 00 257113 7
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Jacob’s Ladder: The History of the Human Genome 
by Henry Gee.
Fourth Estate, 272 pp., £20, March 2004, 1 84115 734 1
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... a performance by ‘the most extraordinary and interesting man in miniature in the known world’. Charles Sherwood Stratton was a perfectly formed 25-inch-tall midget, who weighed only 15 pounds. It had been the idea of the Victorian freak show impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum to present him in the guise of ‘General Tom Thumb’. Before long, the ...

Saintly Resonances

Lorraine Daston: Obliterate the self!, 31 October 2002

Dying to Know: Scientific Epistemology and Narrative in Victorian England 
by George Levine.
Chicago, 320 pp., £31.50, September 2002, 0 226 47536 0
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... of self-annihilation as the price of knowledge – knowledge about nature, society and identity. Charles Darwin and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda in the novel of that title, the aesthete Walter Pater and the statistician Karl Pearson, the political economist Harriet Martineau and Dickens’s John Harmon in Our Mutual Friend – all these ...

Into Apathy

Neil McKendrick, 21 August 1980

The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897 
by Barbara Wedgwood and Hensleigh Wedgwood.
Studio Vista, 386 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 289 70892 3
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... self-satisfaction on the Wedgwoods’ part. For the Wedgwood story is inevitably the story of the Darwin family, so often did they marry and intermarry, while, as one Darwin wistfully conceded, ‘You’ve none of you ever seen a Darwin who wasn’t mostly Wedgwood.’ Josiah Wedgwood’s ...

Whenever you can, count

Andrew Berry: Galton, 4 December 2003

A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics 
by Nicholas Wright Gillham.
Oxford, 416 pp., £22.50, September 2002, 0 19 514365 5
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... the fact that nothing but a eugenic religion can save our civilisation’; in 1912, Major Leonard Darwin, Charles Darwin’s son, jubilantly launched a campaign for eugenic legislation designed ‘to stamp out feeble-mindedness from future generations’; and in 1919, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was ...

Happy Bunnies

John Pemble: Cousin Marriage, 25 February 2010

Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England 
by Adam Kuper.
Harvard, 296 pp., £20.95, November 2009, 978 0 674 03589 8
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... Blunt’s treason just as, a hundred years earlier, it dealt privately with the pederasty of Charles Vaughan. In 1859 Vaughan, headmaster of Harrow, suddenly left in order to accept a much lower-profile job as vicar of Doncaster. Not until 1964, when Phyllis Grosskurth published her biography of John Addington Symonds, was it revealed that Vaughan had ...

Tasty Butterflies

Richard Fortey: Entomologists, 24 September 2009

Bugs and the Victorians 
by J.F.M. Clark.
Yale, 322 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 300 15091 9
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... to observe the daily workings of these diminutive species. He was also a friend and neighbour of Charles Darwin. He provided the land on which Darwin constructed the Sand Walk at Down, where he pondered the problems of organic evolution as he took his daily stroll. Lubbock was the type example (as an entomologist ...

Look at me

Raymond Fancher, 28 June 1990

Rebel with a Cause 
by H.J. Eysenck.
W.H. Allen, 310 pp., £14.95, March 1990, 1 85227 162 0
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... or shy about fighting for their views in public. For example, the 19th-century physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone – inventor of the telegraph, the stereoscope and the concertina, among other devices – could not bring himself to speak out even at informal scientific gatherings where he knew all the participants personally. Just once did he accept an ...

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