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CHARLES DARWIN by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent


The Life of a Revolutionary Thinker

by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: July 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8234-1494-9
Publisher: Holiday House

In the introduction to Patent’s cogent, thoughtful biography of Charles Darwin, she explains his importance as an icon of science, for without his discovery of evolution through the mechanism of natural selection, “biology makes no sense.” Patent traces Darwin’s life, chronicling his childhood love of collecting, a passion he later said in his autobiography “leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a virtuoso, or a miser,” his now famous journey on the Beagle, his life as a naturalist, and his many contributions to science. At the time, it was believed that individual species were created separately by God and were therefore perfect and immutable. When Darwin became convinced that species could and do change over time, he acknowledged in a letter to fellow scientist Joseph Hooker that his ideas were akin to “confessing a murder.” What readers should find inspiring and instructive is the way Darwin persevered. Despite various obstacles, including the fear of societal condemnation and his own ill health, Darwin struggled to figure out the vehicle for species change, integrating his ideas from a variety of sources, never giving up until his theory was whole. Additionally, youngsters should find the details of Darwin’s life, his “houseful of servants,” the highly ritualized way he organized his workday, as well as his related scientific interests and achievements, edifying and entertaining. This is not a piece that exactly pulls the reader along, but it is clear and informative and makes a creative life in science seem worthy and satisfying. (Biography. 10+)