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24 June 2016: The Darwin Legacy

 Charles Darwin is a figure who needs no introduction, but we will give him one anyway, as we have a Darwin first edition new to the site. An English naturalist and geologist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory, Darwin is one of the biggest names in science to this day. His groundbreaking works On the Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man are still frequently referenced in the understanding of evolution as fact, and his five-year voyage on HMS Beagle gave its name to the Mars Lander spacecraft Beagle 2. If you have a passing knowledge of science, the chances are you know all this, but Darwin left a legacy outside of his most well known works.

Charles Lyell, Darwin’s close friend and co-contributor, is not such a household name today. The foremost geologist of his day, Lyell’s scientific contributions included an understanding of earthquakes, the formation of the earth and the geological eras. Darwin’s famous journey on the HMS Beagle supported Lyell’s theories on uniformitarianism, the idea that the Earth was shaped by processes still in operation today and through the publication of his findings the two became close friends and colleagues.  Lyell contributed significantly to Darwin’s theories of evolution, though he was often conflicted and on the fence regarding them. Despite his uncertainty, Lyell helped to arrange the publication of papers by Darwin on natural selection together with Alfred Russell Wallace in 1858. Though not as widely known now, Lyell is and was an important figure in geology and is still held in high acclaim in the field today. We are fortunate enough to have a beautiful edition of his work Principles of Geology.

Darwin’s Grandson, Bernard Darwin, has a different kind of story, but one that still finds its way to the shelves in our library. Bernard Darwin was a golf writer and amateur golfer who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005. Darwin covered golf for The Times from 1908 to 1953 and for Country life between 1907 and 1961. Darwin also played the game and captained The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1934. In 1947 Bernard Darwin wrote the introduction to the reprint of a noted Victorian Golfer’s manual. First published in 1857 under the pseudonym ‘A Keen Hand’, the manual was reissued in a limited print run of 750. It is a charming quirk that the Grandson of Charles Darwin would also come to be a noted author in his field, and later contribute to the reissue of a work that originated in his lifetime.

 

  

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