History of Science

Darwin's Sacred Cause

by Adrian Desmond and James Moore
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. 448 pages.

From the publisher: "In their new book, timed to coincide with the worldwide Darwin bicentenary celebrations, Desmond and Moore provide a major reexamination of Darwin's life and work. Drawing on a wealth of fresh manuscripts, unpublished letters, notebooks, diaries, and ships' logs, they argue that the driving force behind Darwin's theory of evolution was not simply his love of truth or personal ambition — it was his fierce hatred of slavery.

Charles Darwin: The Power of Place

by Janet Browne
Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. 600 pages.

Charles Darwin: The Power of Place is the second volume of Janet Browne's acclaimed biography of Darwin, preceded by Charles Darwin: Voyaging. Browne continues her brilliantly detailed story of Darwin's life, beginning in 1858 with the events that forced him to unveil his theory of evolution by natural selection to the world.

The Reluctant Mr Darwin

by David Quammen
New York: Atlas, 2007. 304 pages.

Focusing on the twenty-one year period between Darwin's return from his travels on the Beagle and the eventual publication of On the Origin of Species, Quammen illuminates the development of Darwin's thoughts and his hesitation to tell the world.

Charles Darwin: The Concise Story of an Extraordinary Man

by Tim Berra
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

From the publisher: "Tim M Berra, whose 'Darwin: The Man' lectures are in high demand worldwide, tells the fascinating story of the person and the idea that changed everything. Berra discusses Darwin's revolutionary scientific work, its impact on modern-day biological science, and the influence of Darwin's evolutionary theory on Western thought. But Berra digs deeper to reveal Darwin the man by combining anecdotes with carefully selected illustrations and photographs.


by Edward O Wilson
New York: Warner Books, 1995. 416 pages.

"Most children have a bug period," Edward O Wilson writes in his charming autobiography, Naturalist. "I never grew out of mine." He became a distinguished entomologist. But he also became a pioneer of sociobiology, a champion of biodiversity, and a graceful and elegant writer, winning the Pulitzer Price twice. "In this exquisitely written memoir," wrote the reviewer for USA Today, "the famed Harvard scientist looks back at his childhood in the South as well as his career as a groundbreaking thinker in the field of evolutionary biology.

Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science

by John Tyler Bonner
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. 238 pages.

From the publisher: "Part autobiography, part history of the extraordinary transformation of biology in his time, Bonner's book is truly a life in science, the story of what it is to be a biologist observing the unfolding of the intricacies of life itself. Bonner's scientific interests are nearly as varied as the concerns of biology, ranging from animal culture to evolution, from life cycles to the development of slime molds." "If you like biology, biography, and history of science and don't mind having fun reading it, then this book is for you," writes Mary Jane West-Eberhard.

In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace

by Michael Shermer
New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. 448 pages.

Reviewing In Darwin's Shadow for RNCSE (2003 Mar/Apr; 23 [2]: 36–7), Aubrey Manning wrote, "This is a distinguished and scholarly biography with excellent coverage of the science. Shermer is concerned with the history of evolutionary ideas and uses the interaction between Wallace, Darwin, and others to great effect.

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'.

Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest

by Adrian Desmond
New York: Basic Books, 1999. 848 pages.

A lively and definitive biography of Thomas Henry Huxley. Not merely Darwin's bulldog, Huxley was also instrumental in promoting the public understanding of science and in establishing science as a profession. Writes the reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, "Desmond moves briskly and wittily through the entertaining events of Huxley's life ...

Buffon: A Life in Natural History

by Jacques Roger
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997. 492 pages.

"If a man's destiny were written in his origins or his heredity, Buffon would have died president of the Burgundy parlement," Jacques Roger begins his biography of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and the premier French scientist of the Enlightenment. "That he had a passion for the sciences and became the greatest French naturalist is a sort of joke of nature, the result of a personal calling, and ultimately inexplicable." The reviewer for American Zoologist wrote, "Buffon is a work of great charm, interest, and importance.