The life and times of Darwin, who was arguably the most influential scientist of the nineteenth century, are the main subjects of Karp’s biography. Had Karp simply presented a life history of Darwin, however, his task would have been difficult enough, for Darwin himself was a complex man. Karp had two further purposes: an explanation of the development of Darwin’s ideas from inchoate form to conclusion and an explanation of the reaction to Darwin’s ideas. In Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species, Karp sought to explain, at a juvenile level, Darwin, Darwinism, and the Darwinian revolution.
In explaining Darwin, Karp focused primarily upon the individual and on his immediate circle. His father and grandfather were both doctors, and their financial and social success guaranteed Darwin a life free from care. His mother was a Wedgwood, a freethinking family that encouraged intellectual thought. This early section of the biography is weak only because Karp does not place Darwin’s early life into perspective. Tremendous changes were occurring in Great Britain at the time; the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution were altering the very nature of Great Britain, events that are not mentioned in the text. In addition, Josiah Wedgwood, the father of Darwin’s mother, was more than a freethinker; he was a giant of industry and instigator of change, and this background certainly stimulated...
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