Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226523118 Will Publish January 2018
E-book $50.00 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226523255 Will Publish January 2018

Darwin's Evolving Identity

Adventure, Ambition, and the Sin of Speculation

Alistair Sponsel

Darwin's Evolving Identity

Alistair Sponsel

336 pages | 13 color plates, 27 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018
Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226523118 Will Publish January 2018
E-book $50.00 ISBN: 9780226523255 Will Publish January 2018
Why—against his mentor’s exhortations to publish—did Charles Darwin take twenty years to reveal his theory of evolution by natural selection? In Darwin’s Evolving Identity, Alistair Sponsel argues that Darwin adopted this cautious approach in order to atone for mistakes he had made as a young geological author. Darwin recoiled from getting his “fingers burned” by the reaction to his ambitious theorizing during the Beagle voyage and afterward in his publishing debut masterminded by the provocative geologist Charles Lyell. Far from being tormented by guilt about developing his evolutionary theory, Darwin was chastened by a publishing strategy that had forced him to disavow his “sin of speculation” about coral reefs, volcanoes, and earthquakes. It was this obligation to moderate his theoretical ambitions in general, rather than the prospect of public outcry over evolution in particular, that made Darwin such a cautious author of Origin of Species.
Drawing on his own ambitious research in Darwin’s manuscripts and at the Beagle’s remotest ports of call, Sponsel takes us from the ocean to the Origin and beyond, providing a vivid new picture of Darwin’s career as a voyaging naturalist and metropolitan author and, through this example, of the range of skills involved in the development of scientific theories.

Part I Theorizing on the Move

1 Darwin’s Opportunity
Coral Reefs as Objects of Fascination and Terror
Studying Reef Formation as an Objective of the Beagle Voyage
Darwin’s Training in the Sciences
Enthusiasm for the South Sea Islands
2 An Amphibious Being
Darwin’s Approach to Scientific Work at the Beginning of the Voyage
Hydrography Becomes a Resource for the Naturalist
An Ambitious Plan for Studying Zoophytes
3 Studying Dry Land with a Maritime Perspective
Applying the Lessons of Hydrography to the Interpretation of Geology
Elevation and Subsidence
4 The Making of a Eureka Moment
The Dangerous Reefs of the Low Archipelago
The View from Tahiti
Theorizing Like Humboldt in a Floating Library
5 The Surveyor-Naturalist
Darwin’s Sea-Level Study of the South Keeling Reef
Seeing Underwater: The Hydrographic Survey at South Keeling
Darwin’s Hydrographic Initiative at Mauritius

Part II Training in Theory

6 Lyell Claims Darwin as a Student
Homeward Bound as an Aspiring Geologist
Lyell as an Author
Master and Student
The Primacy of Geology in Darwin’s Private, as Well as Public, Activities
7 Darwin’s Audacity, Lyell’s Choreography
Going Public
Putting the Coral Theory to Work
An Astonished Response from the Geological Elite
Darwin’s Emergence as a Practitioner of Lyellian Geological Speculation
8 Burned by Success
Darwin’s New Persona
The Obligations of a Student to His Master
The Beginnings of Darwin’s Anxiety about Speculation

Part III A Different Approach to Authorship

9 The Life of a Tormented Geologist (and Enthusiastic Evolutionist)
Darwin’s Turn toward Empiricism and the Ideal of Comprehensiveness
The Pressure of Public Expectations
Lyell’s Appropriation of the Coral Reef Theory
Studying Species as a Diversion from the Task at Hand
10 A Finished Task: Darwin’s Treatise on Coral Reefs
The Space between Lyell and Darwin
A Mountain of Facts
The Theory Emerges
The Immediate Reaction to Coral Reefs
A Theory in Use and in Memory

Part IV Writing the Origin with His “Fingers Burned”

11 Atoning for the Sin of Speculation
Balancing Speculation with Facts
Rejecting Lyell’s Suggestion to Publish a “Sketch”
Lyell Choreographs Another Debut
Publishing an “Abstract” After All: On the Origin of Species
Dealing with Darwin’s “Recollections”
Lyell, Darwin, and Authorship
Studying Practices, Learning about Theories
For more information, or to order this book, please visit
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style |

Keep Informed