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Desmondism

John Sutherland

23 March 1995
Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 474 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7181 3641 1
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... Feynman supposedly turned away requests to explain quantum physics with the jest that if you were smart enough to understand how he won the Nobel Prize, you, too, could win it. Against the odds, AdrianDesmond has produced a string of popular and learned books about Victorian biology, biologists and the epochal publication of The Origin of Species in 1859: The Ape’s Reflexion (1979), Archetypes ...
12 March 1992
Darwin 
by Adrian Desmond and James Moore.
Joseph, 808 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 7181 3430 3
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... for the price) is its detailed portrait of the independent gentleman scientist in almost the last epoch in which any individual could singlehandedly precipitate a major shift in human thought. AdrianDesmond and James Moore place Darwin above Marx and Freud. It is hard to think of successors to that trinity of lone rangers in an age when research is financed by foundations and carried on by teams ...

Darwin among the Gentry

Adrian Desmond

23 May 1985
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. I: 1821-1836 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 702 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 521 25587 2
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The Survival of Charles Darwin: A Biography of a Man and an Idea 
by Ronald Clark.
Weidenfeld, 449 pp., £14.95, April 1985, 0 297 78377 7
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... In a world where dockers vote Tory and Cambridge graduates become KGB colonels, predicting class behaviour is a chancy business. Let me conjure up a still more incongruous example. Conceive a manor-born gentleman, with a private fortune exceeding £30,000 in the 1840s, respectably Whig and with a family dislike of fierce radicalism. He is Cambridge-educated and until recently a prospective parson ...

The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond

15 October 1987
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... David Kohn opens his monumental Darwinian Heritage with a deftly-delivered kick, observing that a study of the wider institutional culture of Darwin’s day seems to be ‘beyond the present ken of historians of 19th-century biology’. It’s a well-aimed blow. Little of the Darwin industry’s capital has been spent on exploring evolution in its social context. It isn’t that the subject is taboo ...

Before Darwin

Harriet Ritvo

24 May 1990
The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine and Reform in Radical London 
by Adrian Desmond.
Chicago, 503 pp., £27.95, March 1990, 0 226 14346 5
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... and former schoolchildren to a single, conveniently packaged occurrence: the invention of Evolution in Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. It is, however, a date that does not figure in AdrianDesmond’s masterful account of the initial rise and decline of evolutionary theory in Britain. While Darwin was still afloat on the Beagle, transmutation, as it was usually called in the 1820s and 1830s ...
24 April 1997
Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 372 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 7181 3882 1
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... at the British Association meeting in Oxford in 1860. We think we know who the good guys were and who the bad hat, or mitre. We do not know exactly what the Bishop of Oxford said or what THH replied. Desmond favours a version of ‘was your grandmother a monkey?’, and gives it a plausible class twist. The Bishop was a gentleman, and confident in the identity and ladylike character of his own ...

Visitors! Danger!

Lorraine Daston: Charles Darwin

8 May 2003
Charles Darwin. Vol. II: The Power of Place 
by Janet Browne.
Cape, 591 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 224 04212 2
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... themes of the age. On the contrary, Victorian society made him. He built his theory out of information physically extracted from others.’ In the other major recent English-language biography, AdrianDesmond and James Moore’s Darwin (1991), the events in Darwin’s life were juxtaposed with the great social and political upheavals of his times: Darwin against the background of the Chartists ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke

21 July 1983
Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... the character of a physical law & is therefore utterly useless. – it foretells nothing because we know nothing of the will of the deity ... ’ What has now been questioned, and very cleverly so by Desmond in his Archetypes and Ancestors, is whether the conventional image of Owen slain by Huxley gives an accurate picture of the idealists’ contribution to the science of palaeontology. Historians of ...
15 November 1984
Science and Medicine in France: The Emergence of Experimental Physiology 1790-1855 
by John Lesch.
Harvard, 276 pp., £20, September 1984, 0 674 79400 1
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Georges Cuvier: Vocation, Science and Authority in Post-Revolutionary France 
by Dorinda Outram.
Manchester, 299 pp., £25, October 1984, 0 7190 1077 2
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... while others (like Outram) examine careers and ‘strategies of intellectual control’. That the two realms can successfully be viewed as one has been triumphantly demonstrated by, among others, AdrianDesmond in his Archetypes and Ancestors. Outram scarcely considers the extent to which Cuvier’s success in doing science shaped the course of his career. The history of science has painted itself ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin

7 January 2010
... bowls; the ‘Darwin Loves You’ bumper-stickers, the ‘Darwin Is My Homeboy’ badges, and the ‘I Darwinism’ thongs. The opening line of the year’s most substantial historical contribution, AdrianDesmond and James Moore’s Darwin’s Sacred Cause, is: ‘Global brands don’t come much bigger than Charles Darwin.’ Quite right.Darwin freely confessed to late-onset philistinism: ‘My mind ...

Dipper

Jason Harding: George Moore

21 September 2000
George Moore, 1852-1933 
by Adrian​ Frazier.
Yale, 604 pp., £29.95, May 2000, 0 300 08245 2
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... said, Moore’s social life and literary career continue to provide a fertile ground for enthusiasts; more often than not as source material for whimsical and mildly defamatory character sketches. Adrian Frazier’s painstakingly researched new biography of Moore marks a considerable advance on Joseph Hone’s respectful but pedestrian 1936 standard biography and Tony Gray’s lively but unscholarly ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe

23 May 1996
The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian​ Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... was an alcoholic and possibly a spy, and that the paper itself was deadly dull. The only previous extended discussion of the Statesman’s first years was Edward Hyams’s ‘house’ history. Adrian Smith makes a fuller attempt to place the early New Statesman in its various political and intellectual contexts and relates the fortunes of the small-circulation political weekly to the seismic ...

Diary

Stephen Spender: Towards a Kind of Neo-Paganism

21 April 1983
... of poets, for the purpose of the weekend was to judge Sotheby’s International Poetry Competition held in support of the Arvon Foundation, and we were the judges: Basil Bunting, Gwendoline Brooks, Adrian Mitchell, George Barker and myself. I feel vaguely paranoid about any poets but those of my own generation (all dead except for Empson and myself) and was delighted at how well we all got on together ...

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