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Astutely framed and annotated excerpts--initiating a new series, Masters of Modern Science. We are treated first to the aged Darwin reminiscing on his youth: the loathing of medical school, the passion for beetle-collecting, the happenstance that led to passage on the Beagle. There are comments on the irascible Fitzroy, and notes from the Voyage with their adumbrations of The Origin. But the lion's share of the book rightly belongs to selections from the first edition (1859) of The Origin of Species. These passages well demonstrate the technique of mounting one long argument based on case after case of the ""theory of descent through modification by natural selection."" Darwin was an uneven writer. There are charming lines: ""When cooked, these lizards yield a white meat which is liked by those whose stomachs soar above all prejudices."" And there are turgidities and timidities. What comes through, however, is an overwhelming celebration of reason: the cumulative impact of the evidence of geological age, individual variation, the argument from animal husbandry (artificial selection)--in short, the splendid edifice of evolution by natural selection, as far as Darwin could bring it. Korey's comments on the reception of The Origin, the later emendations, The Descent of Man, and the various positions of friends and foes provide the cultural perspective that is still necessary today. A felicitous presentation, on the whole--as well as an obvious convenience.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1984
ISBN: 0486452301
Publisher: Little, Brown