Origin Story: The Trials of Charles Darwin (Hardcover)

Origin Story: The Trials of Charles Darwin By Howard Markel Cover Image
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A lively account of how Darwin’s work on natural selection transformed science and society, and an investigation into the mysterious illness that plagued its author.

By early morning of June 30, 1860, a large crowd began to congregate in front of Oxford University’s brand-new Museum of Natural History. The occasion was the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the subject of discussion was Charles Darwin’s new treatise: fact or fiction?

Darwin, a simultaneously reclusive and intellectually audacious squire from Kent, claimed to have solved “that mystery of mysteries,” introducing a logical explanation of the origin of species—how they adapted, even transmogrified, through natural selection. At stake, on that summer’s day of spirited debate, was the very foundation of modern biology, not to mention the future of the church. Without fear of exaggeration, Darwin’s thesis would forever change our understanding of the life sciences and the natural world. And yet the author himself was nowhere to be found in the debate hall—instead, he was miles away, seeking respite from a spate of illnesses that had plagued him for much of his adult life.

In Origin Story, medical historian Howard Markel recounts the two-year period (1858 to 1860) of Darwin’s writing of On the Origin of Species through its spectacular success and controversy. Simultaneously, Markel delves into the mysterious health symptoms Darwin developed, combing the literature to emerge with a cogent diagnosis of a case that has long fascinated medical historians. The result is a colorful portrait of the man, his friends and enemies, and his seminal work, which resonates to this day.

About the Author

Over the past forty years, Howard Markel, MD, PhD, has practiced pediatrics and taught medical history at Johns Hopkins and University of Michigan. He is an award-winning author or editor of many books including his most recent history of DNA, The Secret of Life. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a Guggenheim fellow. His work has appeared in the New York Times and The New Yorker. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Praise For…

Markel, a medical historian, delivers a fresh take on a seminal event in the history of science—the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’—along with lively portraits of the allies and adversaries who debated Darwin’s scandalous theory, and, not least, of the naturalist himself, plagued by debilitating illness and, hot on his heels, an equally brilliant competitor.
— New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

Markel, a medical doctor and masterful science chronicler, turns his attention to the time just before Darwin published his world-changing Origin of Species—and just after, when critics blamed its author for unseating God. Wildly entertaining and thoughtful, too.

— Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe

Deeply satisfying.... Darwin’s two iconic years rendered masterfully by a highly knowledgeable chronicler.
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Gripping.... A detailed and dramatic close-up of a consequential period in scientific history.
— Publishers Weekly

An illuminating approach to the Darwin disputes.
— Tony Miksanek - Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324036746
ISBN-10: 1324036745
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English