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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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... scientific talents as perseverance and attention to detail. No one doubted that he had brought about a revolution, but in his amiable ordinariness he was a most unlikely candidate for genius. JanetBrowne’s magisterial two-volume biography of Darwin takes as its epigraph a line from The Woman in White: ‘We don’t want genius in this country, unless it is accompanied by respectability.’ Darwin ...

Small Special Points

Rosemary Hill: Darwin and the Europeans

23 May 2019
Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Vol. 26, 1878 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt, James Secord and the editors of the Darwin Correspondence Project.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £94.99, October 2018, 978 1 108 47540 2
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... kingdom but was, as set down in Genesis, created in the image of God with an immortal soul to have dominion over the rest of creation. To achieve this balance Darwin was obliged, as the historian JanetBrowne has pointed out, to struggle with his vocabulary. He did not use the word ‘evolution’ because in 1859 it meant principally ‘the unfolding of hidden embryological structures’. Instead ...

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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... of the period during which the theory was articulated, drawing on manuscript material and displaying great sensitivity to Darwin’s intellectual inheritance. It suffers, too, by comparison with JanetBrowne’s meticulous history of biogeography, which is uncommonly lucid on the modifications Darwin had to make to his theory during the 1840s and 1850s – modifications which, in certain respects ...
6 December 1990
The English Spa 1560-1815: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry.
Athlone, 401 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 485 11374 0
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The Medical History of Waters and Spas 
edited by Roy Porter.
Wellcome Institute, 150 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 85484 095 8
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... alleys, the need to measure one’s intake and conter ce qu’ on pisse. Madame de Sévigné’s tribulations invite comparison with the experiences of Charles Darwin at Malvern, described here by Dr JanetBrowne. This was the period of the heroic cold-water cure popularised by the peasant Vincenz Priessnitz at Gräfenberg in Silesia and profitably taken up by the doctors James Manby Gully and James ...

Brute Nature

Rosemary Dinnage

6 March 1997
Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade 
by Andrew Scull, Charlotte Mackenzie and Nicholas Hervey.
Princeton, 363 pp., £23, February 1997, 0 691 03411 7
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... the author’s practice.) He later revived his career, but as an opponent of the modern tomfoolery that claimed to deal with lunatics without coercion. We hope, too, to admire John Conolly and W.A.F. Browne, born thirty and forty years respectively after Haslam. Both were genteel but poor boys who had to struggle for an education; medicine was the obvious career for them. Conolly lectured briefly at the ...
3 April 1986
The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry Vol. I: People and Ideas, Vol. II: Institutions and Society 
edited by W.F. Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael Shepherd.
Tavistock, 316 pp., £19.95, November 1985, 0 422 79430 9
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Madness, Morality and Medicine: A Study of the York Retreat 1796-1914 
by Anne Digby.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £27.50, October 1985, 0 521 26067 1
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... nosology and aetiology. (One result of their earlier intimacy had been the belief that the types and causes of madness were directly legible in the physiognomies of the insane – although, as JanetBrowne points out in her account of Charles Darwin’s encounter with this approach, it seems that what the psychiatrist could see in the photographs of madmen was simply not visible to the layman.) This ...

Straw Ghosts

Nicholas Humphrey

2 October 1980
This house is haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist 
by Guy Lyon Playfair.
Souvenir, 288 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 285 62443 1
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Science and the Supernatural 
by John Taylor.
Temple Smith, 180 pp., £7.50, June 1980, 0 85117 191 5
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... evidence all around us, but counter-evidence ceases to exist. For we can always give a topsy-turvy interpretation to anything which might otherwise suggest we are being fooled. When, for example, Janet Harper, the teenage girl in the Enfield council house, confesses under hypnosis that she and her sister are responsible for causing ‘all the trouble’, Mr Playfair is worried for only a moment ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin

7 January 2010
... a humane, gentle, decent man, a loving husband and father, and a loyal friend … He was, in other words, one of those rare beings, as likeable as he was impressive.’ To Darwin’s biographer JanetBrowne, Darwin was ‘basically a good man, humble and kind, and always did his best to act according to the traditional values he had learned as a child’. ‘It was his very ordinariness,’ she ...

Nothing Becomes Something

Thomas Laqueur: Pathography

21 September 2016
When Breath Becomes Air 
by Paul Kalanithi.
Bodley Head, 228 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 84792 367 7
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... stunning. The prose was unforgettable.’ The book itself had much the same effect. ‘There was an honesty, a truth of writing, that took my breath away. Be ready. Be seated,’ Verghese warns. Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times that ‘to read this book is to feel that Dr Kalanithi still lives, with enormous power to influence the lives of others though he is gone’. ‘Unmissable.’ The ...

Courage, mon amie

Terry Castle: Disquiet on the Western Front

4 April 2002
... on his day off. He was busy taking photos of the photos and smiling delightedly. We passed next through a kind of garage with rusty stuff piled all around – shell casings, barbed wire, rotting Sam Browne belts, a pair of ludicrous French shop-dummies, gaily attired in mismatched officers’ uniforms. Then on out to the display trenches, snaking off into the woods behind the building. These had a neat ...

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