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Charles Darwin as a prospective geological author

  • Sandra Herbert (a1)

On occasion Charles Darwin can seem our scientific contemporary, for the subjects he engaged remain engaging today, but in his role as author he belongs to the past. It is not customary today for scientists to write book after book, as Darwin did, or for these books to serve as the primary vehicle of scientific communication. For Darwin, however, the book was central. He wrote at least eighteen, depending on what one counts; in his Autobiography he entitled the section describing his most important work ‘An account how several books arose’; and in his personal Journal, begun in August 1838 after he had come to a mature sense of himself, he organized entries around his books. A characteristic entry is that for 1846: ‘Oct. 1st. Finished last proof of my Geolog. Observ. on S. America; This volume, including Paper in Geolog. Journal on the Falkland Islands took me 18 & 1/2 months:–’. Further, almost always he had a book under way: when one was complete, the next was begun. He called them the milestones to his life.

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C. Lyell , Principles of Geology, Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes Now in Operation, 3 vols [vol. 1, 1830, vol. 2, 1832, vol. 3, 1833], London, 1830–33.

H. Gruber and V. Gruber , ‘The eye of reason: Darwin's development during the Beagle voyage’, Isis, (1962), 53, p,. 189.

F. J. Sulloway , ‘Further remarks on Darwin's spelling habits’, J. Hist. Biol. (1983), 16, pp. 367–76.

R. Laudan , From Mineralogy to Geology: The Foundations of a Science, 1650–1830, Chicago, 1987

W. F. [S. F.] Cannon , ‘The uniformitarian-catastrophist debate’, Isis, (1960), 51, p. 39

J. Cawood , ‘The magnetic crusade: science and politics in early Victorian Britain’, Isis, (1979), 70, pp. 493518

M. J. S. Rudwick , ‘Darwin and Glen Roy: a “great failure” in scientific method?Stud. Hist. Phi. Sci. (1974), 5, pp. 97185

W. Whewell , ‘Essay towards a first approximation to a map of cotidal lines’, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. (1833), pp. 147236

C. Darwin , ‘The geology of the Falkland Islands’, Quart. J. Ceol. Soc. Lond. (1846), 2, pp. 267–74.

D. R. Stoddart , ‘Darwin, Lyell, and the geological significance of coral reefs’, BJHS. (1976), 9, pp. 211–12

F. Burkhardt , ‘Darwin's early notes on coral reef formation’, Earth Sciences History, (1984), 3, pp. 160–3

W. Montgomery , ‘Charles Darwin's theory of coral reefs and the problem of the chalk’, Earth Sciences History, (1988), 7, pp. 11120.

S. Herbert , ‘The place of man in the development of Darwin's theory of transmutation. Part II’, J. Hist. Biol. (1977), 10, pp. 157–70

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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