Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species has been one of the most influential and provocative books of modern civilization. But while Darwin’s “theory of evolution” has come to be regarded as part of scientific orthodoxy, it has also remained the object of continual debate and controversy throughout the 130 years since he first put forward his ideas. In this important and stimulating book, Ernst Mayr, who has himself made wide-ranging contributions to modern evolutionary thinking, traces the history of Darwin’s evolutionary theories. Darwin did not put forward a single theory of evolution, and his supporters and intellectual heirs interpreted his theories in widely different ways, accepting some parts of his thought and misunderstanding or rejecting others. As our knowledge of the mechanisms of evolution and genetics has developed, Darwinism has been endlessly modified and remodified, but it is a testament to the power of Darwin’s insights that his ideas and writings remain central to all discussions of evolution right up to our own time. Professor Mayes examination of Darwin and Darwinism makes clear the extraordinary originality of Darwin’s genius, emphasising his skills as a naturalist, biologist, and philosopher, and the extent to which he challenged the orthodoxies of his day.
Eminent amongst today’s evolutionists, Ernst Mayr has a wonderful capacity to enter into Charles Darwin’s mind and recreate the path to natural selection. Clear and cogent, I know of no better introduction to the subject.’ - Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
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