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Darwin and the Barnacle

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  • Ian Pitchford
    All reviews are first published in New Scientist print edition, subscribe here Darwin and the Barnacle Rebecca Stott £14.99/$24.95 Faber/W. W. Norton THIS is
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4 10:57 PM
      All reviews are first published in New Scientist print edition, subscribe

      Darwin and the Barnacle
      Rebecca Stott
      £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.

      Roy Herbert


      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

      Editorial Reviews
      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.

      Book Description
      A scientific detective story that illuminates the remarkable saga of Darwin's
      greatest achievement.

      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.
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