The Evolution of Charles Darwin, Part 1 - 4 (Listen)

IDEAS celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's transformational and contentious book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin's theory of evolution through Natural Selection forever changed how we think about the living world. In this 4-part series, Seth Feldman guides us through the life and ideas of Charles Darwin, a creative genius.
On November 24th, 1859, a new book with a very long title was published in England: On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle For Life. The author was: Charles Darwin, M.A.; Fellow of the Royal, (the) Geological, etc., Societies; and author of Journal of Researches during H.M.S. Beagle's Voyage around the World.

The Origin of Species was earth-shattering. In his own day, when he wrote those words, and even now, in our own. Darwin showed us how and why all life is change; that nothing stays the same; that over time all living things adapt and evolve, or perish; and that above all, this is a Natural Process, not the result of Divine Intervention. Darwin's theory - of evolution through Natural Selection - completely changed the way we see the world.

Original airdates: November 11, 18, 25, December 2, 2009

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Part 1

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Illustration from Darwin's Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Various Countries Visited by H.M.S. Beagle.

The Prepared Mind: From Darwin's Early Years To His Voyage Of Discovery On H.M.S. Beagle.

Charles Darwin was born into a world just beginning to shake itself loose from biblical creationism. The French Enlightenment produced the first modern evolutionary theories - followed shortly thereafter by Darwin's own grandfather. At Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities, Darwin was mentored by the most progressive natural philosophers of his day, one of whom got him a berth on H.M.S. Beagle for one of history's great voyages of discovery.

Part 2

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Charles Robert Darwin, aged 45 in 1854, pondering his ideas on the origin of species.

The Transmutationist: Darwin Thinks His Way From The Beagle To The Book.

The young man who stepped off the Beagle not only believed in evolution - or transmutation as it was then known - but also knew better than anyone how it worked. Yet Darwin, family man, country squire, rising star in British science, kept his thoughts secret for more than twenty years. All that time, the evidence piled up until finally the pressure was so great that he had to publish.

Part 3

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On The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin.

Primates vs Primates: What On The Origin Of Species Said, And What Was Said About It.

For a book that turned Western Culture upside down, On the Origin of Species was elegantly written and fascinating to read. Darwin made his case logically, patiently and with a keen awareness of his readers concerns and beliefs. Even so, thoughtful scientists, scandalized clergymen and fellow naturalists argued against his theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and never forgave him for removing moral direction from their picture of life.

Part 4

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The genetic blueprints for living organisms evolve over time.

The Enduring Legacy Of Charles Darwin: Why Science And Society Today Are Still Wrestling With Darwin's Big Idea.

The great synthesis between Darwin's theory of Natural Selection (as the mechanism for evolution) and genetics (as the mechanism for natural selection) is the bedrock of contemporary Evolutionary Biology. But Darwin's idea - though modified, expanded upon and continuously attacked - has also influenced the way we think about everything from human society to thought itself.

Special Thanks To:

Baba Brinkman, the celebrated Hip Hop artist who performed the song 'Natural Selection', written by Baba Brinkman and Tom Caruana, in Part 4 of our series.

Bryan College, in Dayton, Tennessee for providing us with archival songs from the time of the Scopes Trial (1925), also featured in Part 4:
You can't Make A Monkey Out of Me, There Ain't No Bugs On Me; Monkey Biz-ness (Down in Tennessee)

Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Macaulay Library for the recordings of Galapagos Finches by Robert I. Bowman, featured in Parts 1 and 4.

Gloria Saarinen, the internationally acclaimed concert pianist who accompanied the accomplished singer Jacqueline Johnson in Too Thin OR Darwin's Little Joke, a Victorian Parlour song, featured in Part 3.

Carolyn Lecker, gardener extraordinaire, whose tour of her gardens
helped us feel and see how Darwin apprehended the world. Featured in Part 4 of this series.


Selected Bibliography

Darwin's Writings - Darwin's major works have never been out of print and today there are more editions than ever. All are online (see below). The two following recent print collections are of particular interest:

Darwin, Charles. From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). Edited with an introduction and annotated by E.O. Wilson. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005

Darwin, Charles. Evolutionary Writings. Edited by James A. Secord. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Contains: Journal of Researches (aka The Voyage of the Beagle), Origin of Species, Descent of Man, Darwin's 1838 and 1876 autobiographies as well as selected critical responses.

A recent annotated edition of Darwin's unpublished work:

Barrett, Paul H., Peter J. Gautrey, Sandra Herbert, and David Kohn. Charles Darwin's Notebooks, 1836-1844: Geology, Transmutation of Species, Metaphysical Enquiries. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

About Darwin, His Life, Times and Ideas

Bowler, Peter J. Charles Darwin: The Man and his Influence (Cambridge Science Biographies). Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1990.

Bowler, Peter J. Evolution: The History of an Idea. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Bowler, Peter J. Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 1 - Voyaging. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Browne, Janet. Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 2 - The Power of Place. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Browne, Janet. Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography (A Book That Shook the World). London: Atlantic Books, 2007.

Dawson, Gowan. Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture). Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1994.

Desmond, Adrian and James Moore. Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Eldredge, Niles. Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.

Fuller, Steve. Dissent Over Descent: Evolution's 500-Year War on Intelligent Design. London: Icon, 2008.

Gopnik, Adam. Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

Grant, Peter R. and B. Rosemary Grant. How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin's Finches (Princeton Series in Evolutionary Biology). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Jones, Steve. Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated. New York: Random House, 2000.

Judson, Olivia. Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2003.

Levine, George. Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the World. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Secord, James A. Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Related Websites

About Darwin.Com - Dedicated to the Life and Times of Charles Darwin

The Botanic Garden by Erasmus Darwin

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

Cornell Bird Lab

The Darwin Correspondence Project

The Darwin Digital Library of Evolution

The Home of Charles Darwin: Down House, Kent (English Heritage)

The New York Times Interactive Edition of On the Origin of Species

Timeline of the Life of Charles Robert Darwin

Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation

Zoonomia by Erasmus Darwin

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