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The Tragic Sense of Life

by Robert J Richards
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 551 pages.

Subtitled "Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought," The Tragic Sense of Life offers not only a biography of Haeckel, who was the foremost champion on evolution in Germany before World War I, but also a meticulous examination of his impact on biology and politics. The reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement writes, "The Tragic Sense of Life is an immensely impressive work of biography and intellectual history, and a fitting testament to a complex and contradictory character, a 'polymorphic scientist-artist-adventurer'. Richards succeeds brilliantly in re-establishing Haeckel as a significant scientist and a major figure in the history of evolutionary thought."