The Life and Ideas of Charles Darwin

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
Edited by Nora Barlow
1958, W. W. Norton & Company
The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, with original omissions [usually about religion] restored, edited and with appendices and notes by his granddaughter Nora Barlow.
ISBN 978-0-393-31069-6 [for the Norton paperback]

Darwin loved shooting wild animals and birds in his youth and early adulthood, and often did so. I think this damaged his inner ears because of the many concussions they suffered from the powder blasts, especially those from rifles whose chambers would be near the side of his head during aiming and shooting. Many of the symptoms of maladies he experienced from his college days through to the end of his life could have been caused, or at least exacerbated, by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and/or labyrinthitis. For descriptions of these ailments see:

Darwin’s autobiography is charming, frank, unmannered, calm and fascinating. It is simple and casual in the most elegant sense of those terms.

“My habits are methodical, and this has been of not a little use for my particular line of work. Lastly, I have had ample leisure from not having to earn my own bread. Even ill-health, though it has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement.

“Therefore, my success as a man of science, whatever this may have amounted to, has been determined, so far as I can judge, by complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of these the most important have been — the love of science — unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject — industry in observing and collecting facts — and a fair share of invention as well as of common-sense. With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that thus I should have influenced to a considerable extent the beliefs of scientific men on some important points.”

— Charles Darwin, 1809-1882.

Darwin Online
The world’s largest and most widely used resource on Darwin; edited by John van Wyhe.
• Darwin’s Complete Publications
Books: Origin of Species, Descent of Man, Voyage of the Beagle…
Articles: Darwin & Wallace paper…
Published Letters: Darwin and Henslow…
Published Manuscripts: Autobiography, Beagle diary: (audio)…
• Darwin’s Private Papers & Manuscripts
Notebooks, Journal, student bills, marriage notes,
Geological diary, Emma’s diaries, Annie Darwin…
• Supplementary Works (by other authors)
Reviews & Responses
Beagle specimens
Obituaries & Recollections
Works about Darwin Companion, Beagle itinerary…

The Voyage Of Charles Darwin
The 1978 7-part BBC series starring Malcolm Stoddard as Darwin, and Andrew Burt as Captain FitzRoy. Shot on location around the world using a sailing vessel similar in style to the Beagle [videos posted by chiswickscience]. A superb video series on Charles Darwin, his adventures and work and its meaning — essential viewing. Reading the Autobiography and watching this video series complement each other in a most satisfying way.

Part 1: “I was considered a Very Ordinary Boy”

Part 2: “My Mind was a Chaos of Delight”

Part 3: “How Wide was the distance between Savage and Civilised Man”

Part 4: “Can any Mountains, any Continent, withstand such Waste?”

Part 5: “I felt myself brought within reach of that Great Fact – that Mystery of Mysteries”

Parts 6 & 7: “Suppose that all Animals and all Plants are represented by the Branches of a Tree – the Tree of Life”
“In the Distant Future, Light will be thrown upon the Origin of Man, and his History”

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea [Part 1]
“In this seven-part series, Andrew Marr explores the legacy and contemporary influence of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. He travels the globe to reveal key moments and locations in the epic story of Darwin’s revolutionary idea. Each programme explores how Darwin’s idea broke out from the world of science and took on a life of its own. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea still has the power to inspire, challenge and disturb us.” Part 1 is a double-length episode and covers the essentials of the topic. Especially good are two stories on genomic evolution: how differences in human and chimpanzee gene sequences show that these species diverged 3 million years ago, and how medical doctors counter the rapid evolution of the HIV virus to develop drug resistance, by interrupting and varying the drug regimens of their HIV-positive patients.
For parts 2-7 see:

I wrote an essay on Charles Darwin in 2009 to celebrate his 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin Of Species. Also, this was an exercise to increase my knowledge of the man, his work, and its continuing impact on modern science. Finally, I found it interesting to map out the parallel lives of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln who were born on the same day, 12 February 1809.

Darwin’s Living Legacy
6 February 2009

The Genius of Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins on Charles Darwin, in a 2009 series (3 x 48 minutes):

The Genius of Charles Darwin – Episode 1
Life, Darwin and Everything…

The Genius of Charles Darwin – Episode 2
The Fifth Ape…

The Genius of Charles Darwin – Episode 3
God Strikes Back…


3 thoughts on “The Life and Ideas of Charles Darwin

  1. I will leave a longer note after I finish working my way through the treasures you have given us here, but for starters, one correction. Your link to “Part 3: “How Wide was the distance between Savage and Civilised Man” seems to be broken.

    Here is the correct link …

    The Voyage of Charles Darwin, Part 3
    “How Wide was the distance between Savage and Civilised Man”

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