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Origin Story

The Trials of Charles Darwin

(amazon)

Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D. (View Bio)
Hardcover: W.W. Norton & Co., 2024.

Origin Story
(amazon)

This is a lively account of how Darwin’s work on natural selection transformed science and society, and an investigation into the mysterious illness that plagued its author.

By early morning, June 30, 1860, a large crowd began to congregate in front of Oxford University’s brand-new Museum of Natural History. The occasion was the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the subject of discussion was Charles Darwin’s new treatise: fact or fiction? Darwin had introduced a cogent explanation of the origin of species?how they adapted, even transmogrified, through natural selection. At stake was the very foundation of modern biology, not to mention the future of the church.

In Origin Story, Howard Markel recounts the two-year period (1858–1860) of Darwin’s writing of On the Origin of Species through its spectacular success and controversy. Simultaneously, Markel delves into the mysterious health symptoms Darwin developed, presenting the first accurate diagnosis of a case that has long fascinated medical historians. The result is a colorful portrait of the man, his friends and enemies, and his seminal work, which resonates to this day.