Kirkus Star


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If the public is not saturated, this fascinating study of Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley, should find wide acceptance. It portrays two minds and an era, recapturing the temper of England in the 19th century and the changes these two men wrought in the thinking. Parallel critical biographies, they are written in counterpoint, as the careers of the men came together and diverged. The plodding Darwin, beset by an overbearing father, almost from youth ""muddled into genius"", as his theories took form and facts were brought to bear until they grew and unfolded almost inevitably and of themselves into ultimate conclusions.... Born 16 years later, Huxley as a youth thought of entering the ministry; later he embraced scepticism with Victorian moral devotion"". Like Darwin's voyage as a naturalist on the Beagle, Huxley's voyage as assistant surgeon aboard the Rattlesnake was one of zoological discovery. In the South Seas he classified forms under a new system, and while in Sydney he met his future wife, Henrietta Heathorn. They could not marry for six years, by which time Huxley had returned to England and gained a footing in the academic world. And so had Darwin. He too had married, inevitably and with sober premeditation, his cousin Emma Wedgewood. As always, observation was his joy, and the result of his long apprenticeship and research grew into the Origin of Species and Descent of Man. He exhibited the painstaking qualities of a cautious, singleminded man who lacked the brilliance of a Huxley to present his work to the world. Their double chronicle is delightfully told. In his writing, Mr. Irvine's literary flourishes are justified by the astounding events themselves, and by the public response. Don't-miss!

Pub Date: April 11th, 1955
Publisher: McGraw-Hill