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

Steve Jones

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

The Origin of Species is the most famous book in science but its stature tends to obscure the genius of Charles Darwin's other works. The Beagle voyage, too, occupied only five of the fifty years of his career. He spent only five weeks on the Galapagos and on his return never left Britain again. Darwin wrote six million words, in nineteen books and innumerable letters, on topics as different as dogs, barnacles, insect-eating plants, orchids, earthworms, apes and human emotion. Together, they laid the foundations of modern biology. In this beautifully written, witty and illuminating book, Steve Jones explores the domestic Darwin, the sage of Kent, and brings his work up to date. Great Britain was Charles Darwin's other island, its countryside as much, or more, a place of discovery than had been the Galapagos. It traces the great naturalist's second journey across its modest landscape: a voyage not of the body but of the mind. 4.2 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Darwin's Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Science & Nature
Format Hardback
Pages 320
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication January 2009
ISBN 978-1408700006
Publisher Little, Brown
 

The Origin of Species is the most famous book in science but its stature tends to obscure the genius of Charles Darwin's other works. The Beagle voyage, too, occupied only five of the fifty years of his career. He spent only five weeks on the Galapagos and on his return never left Britain again. Darwin wrote six million words, in nineteen books and innumerable letters, on topics as different as dogs, barnacles, insect-eating plants, orchids, earthworms, apes and human emotion. Together, they laid the foundations of modern biology. In this beautifully written, witty and illuminating book, Steve Jones explores the domestic Darwin, the sage of Kent, and brings his work up to date. Great Britain was Charles Darwin's other island, its countryside as much, or more, a place of discovery than had been the Galapagos. It traces the great naturalist's second journey across its modest landscape: a voyage not of the body but of the mind.

Reviews

The Spectator

Jonathan Keates

Jones is so entertaining and persuasive a writer that we have no trouble in accepting his identification of Down House as the true engine-room of modern biology. His chapter on Darwin’s study of worms is thrilling and bizarre enough to engage even the most scornfully indifferent non-scientist.

01/04/2009

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

[An] enthralling book... Jones's chapter on climbing plants, for example, is both a masterpiece of science writing and a revelation of Darwin's almost poetic sensitivity... As Jones accumulates his evidence, the vision of the relatedness of all life becomes more and more breathtaking. I have never read a book that made me gasp with amazement so often.

25/01/2009

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The Financial Times

Clive Cookson

[Jones] draws out beautifully the rich material in Darwin’s lesser known books – about barnacles, orchids and insects, domesticated pigeons, carnivorous plants, earthworms and many other creatures. At the same time he shows what an indefatigable traveller Darwin was... Jones estimates that, during the 40 years Darwin lived at Down House in Kent from 1842 until his death in 1882, he spent 2,000 nights away from home, equivalent to a day a week.

07/02/2009

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The Guardian

Gillian Beer

The delight in reading Jones's book is the zest with which he explores facts and sets them together to yield more than anyone could have expected, in true Darwinian style. This is a copious, branching book... Occasionally, I found his insistence on the language of competition and struggle misleading: the "biological war between flower and insect" might be seen as biological collaboration.

31/01/2009

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The Daily Mail

Christopher Hudson

If you were to read one new book on Darwin this year, this should be it, because it shows Darwin in the round, writing about orchids, insects, dogs, barnacles and tunnelling earthworms - not to mention his second best-known book , The Descent Of Man, in which Darwin finally admitted that human beings, too, shared their nature with other great apes.

23/01/2009

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The Scotsman

Doug Johnstone

Jones is a fine science writer but his enthusiasm sees him occasionally bogged down in numbers and examples, and he sometimes drifts from the focus of Darwin's work; but overall this is a fine attempt to reposition his best-known work in the context of his lifetime's achievements.

31/01/2009

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The Economist

The Economist

“Darwin’s Island” is not, actually, all that much about Darwin. Instead, each chapter uses one of the naturalist’s other books as a point of departure for a meandering, but ultimately enlightening, natural-history lesson. “Insectivorous Plants”, published in 1875, inspires a chapter called “The Green Tyrannosaurs” that shows, using modern genetics, how insectivory has evolved many times in unrelated groups of vegetables in response to a lack of nitrogen in the soil.

22/01/2009

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