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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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... Like 1066, 1688 and 1492, 1859 is an iconic date, indissolubly connected in the minds of schoolchildren 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 Adrian Desmond’s masterful account of the initial rise and decline of evolutionary theory in Britain ...

Poor Darwin

Harriet Ritvo, 26 July 1990

Charles Darwin: A New Biography 
by John Bowlby.
Hutchinson, 511 pp., £19.95, June 1990, 0 09 174229 3
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... Few scientists have provided the occasion for such an expense of ink as Charles Darwin. Although for much of his career he was appreciated only by a relatively small circle of fellow specialists, the publication in 1859 of The Origin of Species brought him to the attention of a much larger public. And the labelling as ‘Darwinism’ (or Darwinisme or Darwinismus) of a variety of Late Victorian views on matters biological, anthropological and sociological ensured that at least his name, if not precisely his work, would continue to command a high level of recognition ...

The Name of the Beast

Armand Marie Leroi, 11 December 1997

Buffon 
by Jacques Roger.
Cornell, 492 pp., £39.50, August 1997, 0 8014 2918 8
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The Platypus and the Mermaid and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination 
by Harriet Ritvo.
Harvard, 274 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 0 674 67357 3
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... peculiar sexual organs; at least one zoologist thought it should be placed in the Amphibia. Harriet Ritvo describes the impact that the platypus, and the slightly less weird, but still peculiar, kangaroo, had on British zoology following the return of the Endeavour, the ship that carried James Cook and Joseph Banks to Australia. These animals ...

Embourgeoisement

Michael Burns, 23 February 1995

Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives 
edited by Aubrey Manning and James Serpell.
Routledge, 199 pp., £35, February 1994, 0 415 09155 1
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The Beast in the Boudoir: Pet-Keeping in 19th-Century Paris 
by Kathleen Kete.
California, 200 pp., £22.50, August 1994, 0 520 07101 8
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... of Animals (though in France animals, like women, attracted little legal interest early on). Harriet Ritvo examines the transitional period in Britain, when old habits of cruelty were slowly and unevenly eclipsed by greater kindness and concern. She is superb on the ‘complicated attitudes and competing categories’ of human-animal relations, but ...

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