This site uses cookies. Learn more about cookies.

Close cookie details

OverDrive would like to use cookies to store information on your computer to improve your user experience at our Website. One of the cookies we use is critical for certain aspects of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but this could affect certain features or services of the site. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, click here to see our Privacy Policy.

If you do not wish to continue, please click here to exit this site.

Hide notification

  Main Nav

Darwin's Ghosts

Cover of Darwin's Ghosts

Darwin's Ghosts

The Secret History of Evolution
Borrow

Christmas, 1859. Just one month after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin received an unsettling letter. He had expected criticism; in fact, letters were arriving daily, most expressing outrage and accusations of heresy. But this letter was different. It accused him of failing to acknowledge his predecessors, of taking credit for a theory that had already been discovered by others. Darwin realized that he had made an error in omitting from Origin of Species any mention of his intellectual forebears. Yet when he tried to trace all of the natural philosophers who had laid the groundwork for his theory, he found that history had already forgotten many of them.

Darwin's Ghosts tells the story of the collective discovery of evolution, from Aristotle, walking the shores of Lesbos with his pupils, to Al-Jahiz, an Arab writer in the first century, from Leonardo da Vinci, searching for fossils in the mine shafts of the Tuscan hills, to Denis Diderot in Paris, exploring the origins of species while under the surveillance of the secret police, and the brilliant naturalists of the Jardin de Plantes, finding evidence for evolutionary change in the natural history collections stolen during the Napoleonic wars. Evolution was not discovered single-handedly, Rebecca Stott argues, contrary to what has become standard lore, but is an idea that emerged over many centuries, advanced by daring individuals across the globe who had the imagination to speculate on nature's extraordinary ways, and who had the courage to articulate such speculations at a time when to do so was often considered heresy.

With each chapter focusing on an early evolutionary thinker, Darwin's Ghosts is a fascinating account of a diverse group of individuals who, despite the very real dangers of challenging a system in which everything was presumed to have been created perfectly by God, felt compelled to understand where we came from. Ultimately, Stott demonstrates, ideas--including evolution itself--evolve just as animals and plants do, by intermingling, toppling weaker notions, and developing over stretches of time. Darwin's Ghosts presents a groundbreaking new theory of an idea that has changed our very understanding of who we are.


From the Hardcover edition.

Christmas, 1859. Just one month after the publication of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin received an unsettling letter. He had expected criticism; in fact, letters were arriving daily, most expressing outrage and accusations of heresy. But this letter was different. It accused him of failing to acknowledge his predecessors, of taking credit for a theory that had already been discovered by others. Darwin realized that he had made an error in omitting from Origin of Species any mention of his intellectual forebears. Yet when he tried to trace all of the natural philosophers who had laid the groundwork for his theory, he found that history had already forgotten many of them.

Darwin's Ghosts tells the story of the collective discovery of evolution, from Aristotle, walking the shores of Lesbos with his pupils, to Al-Jahiz, an Arab writer in the first century, from Leonardo da Vinci, searching for fossils in the mine shafts of the Tuscan hills, to Denis Diderot in Paris, exploring the origins of species while under the surveillance of the secret police, and the brilliant naturalists of the Jardin de Plantes, finding evidence for evolutionary change in the natural history collections stolen during the Napoleonic wars. Evolution was not discovered single-handedly, Rebecca Stott argues, contrary to what has become standard lore, but is an idea that emerged over many centuries, advanced by daring individuals across the globe who had the imagination to speculate on nature's extraordinary ways, and who had the courage to articulate such speculations at a time when to do so was often considered heresy.

With each chapter focusing on an early evolutionary thinker, Darwin's Ghosts is a fascinating account of a diverse group of individuals who, despite the very real dangers of challenging a system in which everything was presumed to have been created perfectly by God, felt compelled to understand where we came from. Ultimately, Stott demonstrates, ideas--including evolution itself--evolve just as animals and plants do, by intermingling, toppling weaker notions, and developing over stretches of time. Darwin's Ghosts presents a groundbreaking new theory of an idea that has changed our very understanding of who we are.


From the Hardcover edition.

Available formats-
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
  • Reading Level:

Recommended for you


Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Just before Christmas in 1859, only a month after he had finally published On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, Charles Darwin found himself disturbed, even haunted, by the thought of his intellectual predecessors. He entered a state of extreme anxiety that had the strange effect of making him more than usually forgetful.

    It had been a cold winter. Though Darwin might have liked to linger on the Sand Walk with his children to admire the intricately patterned hoarfrost on the trees, he knew he had work to do, letters about his book to answer, criticisms to face.

    He had weathered the first blasts of the storm of censure in a sanatorium in Ilkley, where he had been taking the water cure, wrapped in wet sheets in hot rooms, the skin on his face dry and cracked with eczema. Since his return to his family home, Down House, now garlanded with Christmas holly, ivy, and mistletoe by his children, he had braced himself every morning against the sound of the postman's footsteps on the gravel outside his study window. The letters, he lamented to his wife, Emma, came like swarms.

    Each new mailbag delivered to Down House brought letters voicing opprobrium, some veiled, some outspoken; a few contained praise. But though some reviewers might be expressing outrage, Darwin reassured himself, hundreds of ordinary people were reading his book. On the first day of sale in November, the entire print run of 1,250 books had sold out. Even Mudie's Select Lending Library had taken five hundred copies. Now his publisher, John Murray, was about to publish a second edition; this time Murray intended to print three thousand copies, and he had agreed to let Darwin correct a few minor mistakes. Darwin was relieved. The mistakes embarrassed him.
    As readers and reviewers took up their positions for or against his book, Darwin began to keep a note of where everyone stood on the battleground. "We shall soon be a good body of working men," he wrote to his closest friend and confidant, the botanist Joseph Hooker, "& shall have, I am convinced, all young & rising naturalists on our side."

    The letter that launched Darwin into a prolonged attack of anxiety came from the Reverend Baden Powell, the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, a theologian and physicist who had been forthright in his support for the development theory for some time.

  • The elderly professor was on the brink of being prosecuted for ecclesiastical heresy. Of all the letters in that day's pile, the one from Powell would be innocuous enough, Darwin assumed. He scanned it quickly, relieved to glimpse phrases like "masterly volume" and a few other words of praise. But Baden Powell was not happy. Having finished with his compliments, the professor launched into a direct attack, criticizing Darwin not for being wrong, not for being an infidel, but for failing to acknowledge his predecessors. He even implied that Darwin had taken the credit for a theory that had already been argued by others, notably himself.
    This was not the first time Darwin had been accused of intellectual theft, but until now, the accusations had been tucked away in reviews and had been only implicit. How original is this book? people were clearly asking. How new is this idea of Mr. Darwin's?

  • The Reverend Baden Powell was the father of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the
    Scouting movement.

    He might have protected himself better from charges of plagiarism, Darwin reflected fretfully, if he had only written a preface, as most scientists did when they published any controversial set of claims: a survey of all the ideas that had gone before. It gave the ideas a history and a context. It was a way of showing...
About the Author-
  • Rebecca Stott is a professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia and an affiliated scholar at the department of the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University. She is the author of several books, including Darwin and the Barnacle and the novels Ghostwalk and The Coral Thief. She lives in Cambridge, England.

Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Books on Tape
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
    Release date:
Digital Rights Information+
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
    Burn to CD: 
    Permitted
    Transfer to device: 
    Permitted
    Transfer to Apple® device: 
    Permitted
    Public performance: 
    Not permitted
    File-sharing: 
    Not permitted
    Peer-to-peer usage: 
    Not permitted
    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Bookshelf to manage your titles.

×

You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Bookshelf?

×

Recommendation Limit Reached.

You have reached the maximum number of titles you are permitted to recommend at this time.

×

Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend your library consider adding this title to the Digital Collection.

×
×

Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.

×

Permissions

×

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

×

×

NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

×

To recommend Darwin's Ghosts, complete the following information:

*indicates required information

(comma separates multiple email addresses, i.e. bob@aol.com, bob@hotmail.com)

Subject: Check out this downloadable title at the downloadLibrary


We respect your privacy. Any and all information collected at this site will be kept strictly confidential and will not be sold, reused, rented, loaned, or otherwise disclosed.

×
Recommend this title to the library to be added to the Digital Collection
Darwin's Ghosts
Darwin's Ghosts
The Secret History of Evolution
Rebecca Stott
×
Buy it now
and help our library WIN!
Darwin's Ghosts
Darwin's Ghosts
The Secret History of Evolution
Rebecca Stott
Choose a retail partner below to buy this title for yourself.
A portion of this purchase goes to support your library.
×

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

×
×

To recommend '', complete the following information:

*indicates required information

(comma separates multiple email addresses, i.e. bob@aol.com, bob@hotmail.com)

Subject: Check out this downloadable title at the downloadLibrary

We respect your privacy. Any and all information collected at this site will be kept strictly confidential and will not be sold, reused, rented, loaned, or otherwise disclosed.

×