Editor: Michael Ruse
Publisher:  Cambridge University Press – 568 pages
Book Review by: Nano Khilnani

The classic theory of evolution and natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) developed and written about by the famous Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is discussed in this book by people from around the world in the form of essays. They also discuss his activities as a biologist, geologist, and naturalist.

The discussions are of a very wide range, and they are mainly on the the influence of this important but oftentimes controversial theory upon some of the important aspects of human learning and living, namely:

  • Culture
  • Domination
  • Gender
  • Literature
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Science
  • Sex

Sixty-seven people contributed to the content of this book by authoring or coauthoring its 63 chapters. The authors are from 15 countries: Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


  1. Origins and the Greeks
  2. Evolution Before Darwin
  3. Charles Darwin’s Geology: The Root of His philosophy of the Earth
  4. Looking Back with “Great Satisfaction” on Charles Darwin’s vertebrate Paleontology
  5. The Origins of the Origin: Darwin’s First Thoughts about the Tree of Life and natural Selection, 1837-1839
  6. Darwin and Taxonomy
  7. Darwin and the Barnacles
  8. The Analogy between Artificial and Natural Selection
  9. The Origin of Species
  10. Sexual Selection
  11. Darwin and Species
  12. Darwin and heredity
  13. Darwin and Time
  14. Darwin’s Evolutionary Botany
  15. Mimicry and Camouflage
  16. Chance and Design
  17. Darwin and Teleology
  18. The Evolution of the Origin (1859-1872)
  19. Alfred Russell Wallace
  20. Darwin and Humans
  21. Darwin and Language
  22. Darwin and Ethics
  23. Social Darwinism
  24. Darwin and the Levels of Selection
  25. Darwin and Religion
  26. Darwinism in Britain
  27. Darwinism in the United States, 1859-1930
  28. The German Reception of Darwin’s Theory, 1860-1945
  29. Darwin and Darwinism in France before 1900
  30. Encountering Darwin and Creating Darwinism in China
  31. Darwinism in Latin America
  32. Botany: 1880s to 1920s
  33. Population Genetics
  34. Synthesis Period in Evolutionary Studies
  35. Ecological Genetics
  36. Darwin and Darwinism after 1900
  37. Botany and the Evolutionary Synthesis, 1920-1950
  38. The Emergence of Life on Earth and the Darwinian Revolution
  39. The Evolution of the Testing of Evolution
  40. Mimicry and camouflage: Part Two
  41. The Tree of Life
  42. Sociobiology
  43. Evolutionary Paleontology
  44. Darwin and Geography
  45. Darwin and the Finches
  46. Developmental Evolution
  47. Darwin’s Evolutionary Ecology
  48. Darwin and the Environment
  49. Molecular Biology: Darwin’s Precious Gift
  50. Challenging Darwinism: Expanding, Extending, Replacing
  51. Human Evolution After Darwin
  52. Language Evolution After Darwin
  53. Language Evolution Since Darwin
  54. Literature
  55. Darwin and Gender
  56. Evolutionary Epistemology
  57. Ethics After Darwin
  58. Darwin and Protestantism
  59. Creationism
  60. Darwin and Catholicism
  61. Judaism, Jews, and Evolution
  62. Religion: Islam
  63. From Evolution and Medicine to Evolutionary Medicine

Charles was born on February 12, 1809 (the same day Abraham Lincoln was born in the United States) as the fifth of six children, to Dr. Robert Darwin and his wife Sussanah in Shrewsbury, a town in the English Midlands near the border of Wales in northern England

Darwin was sent to study in one of England’s famous public (in reality, private) schools. After that he was sent north to study medicine in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. After two years young Charles realized that medicine was not for him. So he moved south to Cambridge to become a clergyman in the Church of England, graduating with a degree in 1831.

Life for some takes strange turns. For Charles Darwin, with connections he had made as a student, he was offered a chance to join the British warship HMS Beagle, as it set off for South America to map the coastline of that continent. This voyage, which eventually went around the world, took a long five years, returning to England in 1836. By this time, all his thoughts of becoming a clergyman had vanished.

Darwin then settled down into full-time work as a scientist, supported by family money. After his experiences discovering South America, he decided to study evolution. In early 1839, Charles married his cousin Emma Wedgwood and they moved to a house in Kent.

Charles Darwin did not publish any material for more than twenty years after his HMS Beagle travels and his later discoveries as well, on evolution and natural selection. It was not until 1859 that his world-famous book – On the Origin of the Species – was published.

It provided compelling evidence of evolution in the development of various species of animals and plants. He received worldwide acclaim for it. By 1870, much of the worldwide scientific community had accepted evolution as a fact, and natural selection made perfect sense to critical thinkers.




Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University. He is the author of twenty books and the founding editor of Biology and Philosophy.