London: Continuum, 2009. Octavo, black and white illustrations, fine copy in dustwrapper.
Just how far did Charles Darwin's luck - both good and bad - affect his life and scientific discoveries? One might make a case for saying that Darwin's life was dogged by ill-luck (or perhaps ill-fortune is more appropriate). His mother died when he was seven; he was sent to a school at which he 'learnt little'; he left Edinburgh Medical School after two years, unqualified. He undertook a five-year voyage although he was prone to sea-sickness; his girlfriend (of whom there is evidence he was very fond) married someone else a few months into this voyage. He was affected by ill-health throughout much of his life. One of his children appears to have been mentally handicapped and this child, and also his beloved Annie, died in infancy. In addition to all this, his brother became addicted to drugs. On the other hand one could argue that he had a privileged and fortunate life - perhaps the more common view. At a number of key points in his life he made a choice, or others made a choice, or circumstances occurred, that profoundly influenced the path that he took., There is a school of thought, one that this book investigates, that although Darwin came to the right conclusions, he did not actually follow the right path in getting there. While his science was sometimes flawed, he had the distinct knack of good instinct. Whilst on his voyage to the Galapagos vital evidence that would have led to his theories becoming clearer quite literally slipped through his fingers - Galapagos turtles were caught, examined and their shells thrown overboard. Had he been more thorough, Darwin may have noticed that the clues to his theory of evolution were on these very shells.
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