Darwin and the Barnacle
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Darwin and the Barnacle
£14.99/$24.95 Faber/W. W. Norton
THIS is that rare book that sweeps you on from the first few pages with a
combination of colourful detail, elegant style and the excitement of living, of
pursuing an idea to its conclusion. All this from a book whose title could
easily make you put it back on the rack? Yes.
The grim opening scene is of a public execution on the beach at Leith in
Edinburgh, far from any connection with barnacles. Yet the teenage Charles
Darwin's interest in sea creatures was first kindled there. Later, he came back
from the Beagle voyage with rare barnacles among his specimens.
Barnacles were a mystery to naturalists. They had not even been
classified. For eight years, Darwin was obsessed with this task and it made him
a scientific notable in touch with naturalists and others the world over. He
published two volumes on barnacle structure and classification. As Stott shows
in Darwin and the Barnacle, without that solid work he would have lacked the
reputation as a man of science who had to be taken seriously when he published
his ideas on the origin of species.
Stott has a gift for keeping the scientific story moving without losing
hold on 19th-century life, society or history. This is a brilliant performance
with a grip like that of the Ancient Mariner.
Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History's Most
Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough
by Rebecca Stott
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company; (May 2003) ISBN: 0393057453
AMAZON - US
AMAZON - UK
James A. Secord, author of Victorian Sensation
Perfect reading for your next beach holiday; you'll never look at a barnacle,
or at Darwin, the same way again.
James Moore, co-author of Darwin
A spellbinding story, intricate and beautifully told.
A scientific detective story that illuminates the remarkable saga of Darwin's
Pairing Charles Darwin and a rare species of barnacle as her unlikely
protagonists, Rebecca Stott has written an absorbing work of history, a book
that guides readers through the treacherous shoals of nineteenth-century
biology. Beginning her narrative in the 1820s even before Darwin's Beagle
voyage, Stott examines the mystery of why Darwin waited over two decades
between formulating his pivotal theory of natural selection and publishing it.
Lavishly illustrated, filled with riddles and concepts that challenge our
notion of Victorian science, Darwin and the Barnacle is a thrilling account of
how genius proceeds through indirection-and how one small item of curiosity
contributed to one of science's greatest achievements. 32 illustrations.
About the Author
Rebecca Stott is an affiliated scholar in the Department of History and
Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University.