Form and Content
Walter Karp’s Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species, a lavishly illustrated biography of Darwin, is essentially a chronological narrative coupled with an analysis of Darwin’s ideas and their impact. Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809. His father, Robert Waring Darwin, was a physician who had amassed great personal wealth, giving young Darwin the opportunity to live a care-free youth. He impressed virtually no one with his intellectual talents, largely because he was disinterested in the classical education curriculum of the era. His pref-erence, even as a youth, was the study of nature.
After finishing public school, Darwin spent two years at the medical school of Edinburgh University. He was then allowed by his father to transfer to the University of Cambridge to study for the ministry. Instead, after meeting Professor John Stevens Henslow, the chair of the botany department, he became increasingly interested in natural history. Following his graduation (without distinction) in 1831 and with Henslow’s assistance, he was hired by Captain Robert Fitzroy as the official naturalist on a surveying trip for the British Admiralty.
The five-year journey on HMS Beagle would provide Darwin with the raw material with which he would revolutionize the world. His primary task on the trip was to collect and catalog specimens of fauna from the areas that the ship visited. Darwin took with him Charles...
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