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An illuminating new biography of a legendary figure in the scientific world whose legacy continues to draw reappraisals.

The prolific novelist and biographer probes the character and controversies of Charles Darwin’s life and the controversial theory that turned the world on its head.

Wilson (The Queen, 2017, etc.) writes that Victorian England, deep into the Industrial Revolution, “was ready for a theory of nature which revealed everything in existence to be in a state of becoming, rather than fixed arrival.” Born into an upper-class family, Darwin followed in the footsteps of his father and attended medical school. However, he was more intrigued by the natural world than human bodies, and when he was given the opportunity to join an exploratory voyage, he took it. The huge collection of natural specimens that Darwin amassed on this five-year voyage was, in Wilson’s eyes, his greatest achievement. After settling down to a quiet country life with his family, Darwin formulated the theory of evolution that he would lay out in On the Origin of Species and further develop in The Descent of Man. Wilson thoroughly analyzes the various facets of Darwin’s life for influences both conscious and unconscious. While Darwin is usually credited with the theory of evolution, another scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace, actually came up with the theory at the same time. Both found inspiration from a tract about human population by Thomas Malthus. While most of us now take evolution as a given, there were plenty of questions left open, some of which Darwin himself recognized. The study of genetics has answered some of these questions, but the idea of evolution as the “survival of the fittest” continues to be challenged. Integrating a wealth of biographical details with in-depth discussions of the criticisms and arguments around Darwinism, Wilson helps readers understand how Darwin was an almost inevitable product of his times. As he writes, “the idea…that he alone was responsible for the scales falling from the eyes of the human race is a piece of mythology.”

An illuminating new biography of a legendary figure in the scientific world whose legacy continues to draw reappraisals.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243349-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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