Thursday, July 03, 2008

McKie, Robin. "How Darwin Won the Evolution Race." OBSERVER June 22, 2008.

'Wallace's letter gave Darwin a good kick up the backside,' says the geneticist Steve Jones. 'He had prevaricated for 20 years and would have done so for another 20 if he hadn't realised someone else was on the trail.' The summer of 1858 changed everything for Darwin. Although by no means an arrogant man, he knew his worth. He was already a Royal Society Gold Medal winner and was not going to be robbed by a whippersnapper specimen collector in Malaysia. So he sat down, with a board across his knee, on the only chair in his house that could accommodate his long legs, and wrote up the research he had been carrying out for the past 20 years. The end result was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, whose 150th anniversary will be celebrated next year along with the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Remarkably, it is the only major scientific treatise to have been written, deliberately, as a piece of popular writing, a book whose interlacing story lines have been compared with those of George Eliot or Charles Dickens and which is peppered with richly inventive metaphor. 'Darwin was creating a lasting work of art,' as Darwin's biographer Janet Browne puts it. . . . Read the rest here:

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