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Celebrating Charles Darwin’s birthday

Darwin Day marks the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on 12 February 1809. One could come up with several creative ways to celebrate the life of such an influential and revered scientist—baking a cake with 73 candles in honor of Darwin’s 73 years of life, or taking a walk through a local park or nature reserve in an attempt to make observations about wild animals, to name a few. But why not spend this Darwin Day learning a fun fact or two that you didn’t already know? We compiled a list of Oxford’s books on the life and philosophies of Darwin, and discovered that when it comes to Darwin, there is much to be learned.


Darwin: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Howard

Are you looking for a basic overview of Darwin’s work? Look no further than this Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Howard. Howard discusses Darwin’s belief that humans have evolved over time from apes—a fundamental principle from On the Origin of Species. This Very Short Introduction illuminates the importance of Darwin’s evolutionary philosophies in shaping modern biological principles.

Evolution: A Very Short Introduction by Brian Charlesworth

The writings of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, which are celebrated within this Very Short Introduction, were published over 150 years ago. Brian Charlesworth highlights the evolutionary philosophies of both scientists as they are presented in these works.

BerraDarwin and His Children: His Other Legacy by Tim M. Berra

Darwin not only studied how different species have evolved in order to produce viable offspring, he also produced ten offspring of his own. Dedicating one chapter to each of Darwin’s children, Tim Berra sheds light on the lives of these children—some of whom went on to study science just like their father.

On the Origin of Species, Revised Edition by Charles Darwin; edited by Gillian Beer

Most people are familiar with Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. However, this revised edition offers explanatory notes—including a Register that details all of the writers to which Darwin refers within the text—that will provide readers with an even firmer grasp on Darwin’s evolutionary theories.

Darwin,CharlesEvolutionary Writings: Including the Autobiographies by Charles Darwin, edited by James A. Secord

Darwin wrote many texts that highlight his evolutionary philosophies and feature the experiments that solidified these principles. Darwin even wrote an autobiography, titled Recollections. Evolutionary Writings, an Oxford World Classic, features key chapters from several of Darwin’s most influential writings: the Journal of Researches on the Beagle voyage, On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and Recollections.

In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History by Michael Shermer

Far less familiar than the name of Charles Darwin is that of Alfred Russel Wallace. However, Wallace came to many of the same conclusions as Darwin regarding evolutionary theory. Reading this book will bring the life and studies of Wallace out of Darwin’s shadow—further solidifying the discoveries that both of these scientists made.

van WyheAlfred Russel Wallace: Letters from the Malay Archipelago by John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker

Like Darwin, Wallace traveled overseas in order to come to the conclusion that evolution occurs via natural selection. John van Wyhe and Kees Rookmaaker highlight Wallace’s letters from this voyage, revealing many fascinating details about this less-recognized naturalist.

Darwin the Writer by George Levine

Most people know Darwin for his contributions to science. But had Darwin been unable to convey all of his discoveries in an eloquent manner, these findings may have never been shared. By highlighting the importance of Darwin’s writing style and argument construction, George Levine provides readers with a new perspective on the significance of Darwin’s work.

ProdgerDarwin’s Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution by Phillip Prodger

Did you know that Darwin was the first person to compile a scientific narrative told through the use of pictures, in his masterpiece Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals? Darwin never studied photography or art, but he was very interested in these subjects—forging friendships with many revered animal artists, painters, and sculptors, some of whom traveled with Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle. Through this narrative, Phillip Prodger sheds light on the way in which Darwin influenced how photographs are viewed.

Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith by Philip Kitcher

The presentation of Darwin’s theories on evolution was far from controversial. In Living with Darwin, Philip Kitcher highlights evidence for evolution, Creation Science, and Intelligent Design—illuminating some of the sources of resistance to Darwin’s philosophies.

FaraErasmus Darwin: Sex, Science, and Serendipity by Patricia Fara

Few people know that Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution were greatly influenced by the similar philosophies of his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin. Erasmus was well-known during the Enlightenment for his beliefs regarding sex and science—many of which were embedded into his poetry. Patricia Fara depicts these evolutionary philosophies and more in Erasmus Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Serendipity.

Darwin in the Archives: Papers on Erasmus Darwin and Charles Darwin from the Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History and Archives of Natural History by E. Charles Nelson and Duncan Porter

The Society of the History of Natural History celebrated the work of Darwin and its influence on contemporary science on the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth by publishing Darwin in the Archives. This book features reproductions of papers on Charles Darwin and Erasmus Darwin from the Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History and Archives of Natural History.

Happy reading! But most importantly—happy birthday, Darwin!

Charles Darwin was a British naturalist, who studied medicine in Edinburgh followed by theology at Cambridge University, intending a career in the Church. However, his interest in natural history led him to accept an invitation in 1831 to join HMS Beagle as naturalist on a round-the-world voyage. After his return five years later he published works on the geology he had observed. He was also formulating his theory of evolution by means of natural selection, but it was to be 20 years before he published The Origin of Species(1859), prompted by similar views expressed by Alfred Russel Wallace. Among his later works was The Descent of Man (1871).

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Recent Comments

  1. Connor

    This was extremely helpful,
    thanks Connor

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