Best Selling Books by Adrian Desmond

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release date: Jun 29, 2004
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The Descent of Man (Penguin Classics)
Applying his controversial theory of evolution to the origins of the human species, Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man was the culmination of his life's work.

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin refused to discuss human evolution, believing the subject too 'surrounded with prejudices'. He had been reworking his notes since the 1830s, but only with trepidation did he finally publish The Descent of Man in 1871. The book notoriously put apes in our family tree and made the races one family, diversified by 'sexual selection' - Darwin's provocative theory that female choice among competing males leads to diverging racial characteristics. Named by Sigmund Freud as 'one of the ten most significant books' ever written, Darwin's Descent of Man continues to shape the way we think about what it is that makes us uniquely human.

In their introduction, James Moore and Adrian Desmond, acclaimed biographers of Charles Darwin, call for a radical re-assessment of the book, arguing that its core ideas on race were fired by Darwin's hatred of slavery. The text is the second and definitive edition and this volume also contains suggestions for further reading, a chronology and biographical sketches of prominent individuals mentioned. 

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
release date: Jun 17, 1994
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Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist

"Unquestionably the finest [biography] ever written about Darwin. . . . Darwin has now become, and properly, the quintessentially socially embedded scientist. Desmond and Moore are brilliant in their pursuit of this truly unifying theme."―Stephen Jay Gould

Hailed as the definitive biography, this monumental work explains the character and paradoxes of Charles Darwin and opens up the full panorama of Victorian science, theology, and mores. The authors bring to life Darwin's reckless student days in Cambridge, his epic five-year voyage on the Beagle, and his grueling struggle to develop his theory of evolution.

Adrian Desmond and James Moore's gripping narrative reveals the great personal cost to Darwin of pursuing inflammatory truths―telling the whole story of how he came to his epoch-making conclusions.
release date: Jan 28, 2009
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Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution

An astonishing new portrait of a scientific icon

In this remarkable book, Adrian Desmond and James Moore restore the missing moral core of Darwin’s evolutionary universe, providing a completely new account of how he came to his shattering theories about human origins.

There has always been a mystery surrounding Darwin: How did this quiet, respectable gentleman, a pillar of his parish, come to embrace one of the most radical ideas in the history of human thought? It’s difficult to overstate just what Darwin was risking in publishing his theory of evolution. So it must have been something very powerful—a moral fire, as Desmond and Moore put it—that propelled him. And that moral fire, they argue, was a passionate hatred of slavery.

To make their case, they draw on a wealth of fresh manuscripts, unpublished family correspondence, notebooks, diaries, and even ships’ logs. They show how Darwin’s abolitionism had deep roots in his mother’s family and was reinforced by his voyage on the Beagle as well as by events in America—from the rise of scientific racism at Harvard through the dark days of the Civil War.

Leading apologists for slavery in Darwin’s time argued that blacks and whites had originated as separate species, with whites created superior. Darwin abhorred such "arrogance." He believed that, far from being separate species, the races belonged to the same human family. Slavery was therefore a "sin," and abolishing it became Darwin’s "sacred cause." His theory of evolution gave all the races—blacks and whites, animals and plants—an ancient common ancestor and freed them from creationist shackles. Evolution meant emancipation.

In this rich and illuminating work, Desmond and Moore recover Darwin’s lost humanitarianism. They argue that only by acknowledging Darwin’s Christian abolitionist heritage can we fully understand the development of his groundbreaking ideas. Compulsively readable and utterly persuasive, Darwin’s Sacred Cause will revolutionize our view of the great naturalist.

release date: Apr 15, 1992
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The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series)
Looking for the first time at the cut-price anatomy schools rather than genteel Oxbridge, Desmond winkles out pre-Darwinian evolutionary ideas in reform-minded and politically charged early nineteenth-century London. In the process, he reveals the underside of London intellectual and social life in the generation before Darwin as it has never been seen before.

"The Politics of Evolution is intellectual dynamite, and certainly one of the most important books in the history of science published during the past decade."—Jim Secord, Times Literary Supplement

"One of those rare books that not only stakes out new territory but demands a radical overhaul of conventional wisdom."—John Hedley Brooke, Times Higher Education Supplement
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release date: Apr 30, 2011
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Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins

There has always been a mystery surrounding Darwin: How did this quiet, respectable gentleman come to beget one of the most radical ideas in the history of human thought? It is difficult to overstate what Darwin was risking in publishing his theory of evolution. So it must have been something very powerful—a moral fire, as Desmond and Moore put it—that helped propel him. That moral fire, they argue, was a passionate hatred of slavery.

In opposition to the apologists for slavery who argued that blacks and whites had originated as separate species, Darwin believed the races belonged to the same human family. Slavery was a “sin,” and abolishing it became his “sacred cause.” By extending the abolitionists’ idea of human brotherhood to all life, Darwin developed our modern view of evolution.

Drawing on a wealth of fresh manuscripts, family letters, diaries, and even ships’ logs, Desmond and Moore argue that only by acknowledging Darwin’s abolitionist heritage can we fully understand the development of his groundbreaking ideas.

release date: Sep 15, 1986
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Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London, 1850-1875
"The social construction of scientific knowledge, clearly one of the most exciting trends in the history of science in the 1890's, has made a solid stride forward with the publication of Archetypes and Ancestors. . . . Adrian Desmond set out to determine how much light might be shed on the mid-Victorian controversies over fossil reconstruction by an investigation of the ideological commitments and political programs of London paleontologists. The answer is: a great deal of light. The resulting book is thoroughly fascinating."—Philip Rehbock, American Historical Review

"A sophisticated study of the colonization of scientific territory—specifically of rival attempts to design the dinosaur—and of the constructive (not just obstructive) role of social pressures in the making of 'lasting contributions' to science. Not least it is a joy to read, perkily irreverent at times and full of nice vignettes and memorable turns of phrase."—Roy Porter, Times Higher Education Supplement

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release date: Nov 03, 1994
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Huxley: The Devil's Disciple
T.H. Huxley (1825-1895) - "Darwin's bulldog" - led a far more fascinating and outgoing life than the reclusive Darwin. He did battle with God and Gladstone, sat on royal commissions and campaigned for elementary education. He carried Darwin's fight to the public and outraged the old order with his talk of the material basis of life. It was a life lived at high speed and to the full, embracing all the Victorian hopes and fears. Desperately trying to scratch a living in his young days, he suffered mental collapses as he failed to bring his fiancee over from Sydney (he raised the cash after four years). The author of this book uses the life of Huxley to illustrate and illuminate the second - and far more turbulent - half of the 19th century. Adrian Desmond is the author of "Darwin" which won the James Tait Black Prize in Britain, the Comisso Prize in Italy and the Watson Davis Prize in America.
release date: Mar 31, 1999
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Huxley: From Devil's Disciple To Evolution's High Priest (Helix Books)
T. H. Huxley (1825–1895) was Darwin's bloody-fanged bulldog. His giant scything intellect shook a prim Victorian society; his “Devil's gospel” of evolution outraged. He put “agnostic” into the vocabulary and cave men into the public consciousness. Adrian Desmond's fiery biography with its panoramic view of Dickensian life explains how this agent provocateur rose to become the century's greatest prophet.Synoptic in its sweep and evocative in its details, Desmond's biography reveals the poverty and opium-hazed tragedies of young Tom Huxley's life as well as the accolades and triumphs of his later years. The drug-grinder's apprentice knew sots and scandals and breakdowns that signaled a genius close to madness. As surgeon's mate on the cockroach-infested frigate Rattlesnake, he descended into hell on the Barrier Reef, but was saved by a golden-haired girl in the penal colony.Huxley pulled himself up to fight Darwin's battles in the 1860s, but left Darwin behind on the most inflammatory issues. He devasted angst-ridden Victorian society with his talk of ape ancestors, and tantalized and tormented thousands-from laborers to ladies of society, cardinals to Karl Marx—with his scintillating lectures. Out of his provocations came our image of science warring with theology. And out of them, too, came the West's new faith-agnosticism (he coined the new word).Champion of modern education, creator of an intellectually dominant profession, and president of the Royal Society, in Desmond's hands Huxley epitomizes the rise of the middle classes as the clawed power from the Anglican elite. His modern godless universe, intriguing and terrifying, millions of years in the making, was explored in his laboratory at South Kensington; his last pupil, H. G. Wells, made it the foundation of twentieth-century science fiction.Touching the crowning achievements and the crushing depths of both the man and his times, this is the epic story of a courageous genius whose life summed up the social changes from the Victorian to the modern age. Written with enormous zest and passion, Huxley is about the making of our modern Darwinian world.
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release date: Jun 18, 2007
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Charles Darwin (Very Interesting People Series)
Very definitive, very concise, and very interesting...

From William Shakespeare to Winston Churchill, the Very Interesting People series provides authoritative bite-sized biographies of Britain's most fascinating historical figures--people whose influence and importance have stood the test of time.

Each book in the series is based upon the biographical entry from the world-famous Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
release date: Feb 18, 2020
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Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins
In this remarkable book Adrian Desmond and James Moore, world authorities on Darwin, give a completely new explanation of how Darwin came to his famous view of evolution, which traced all life to an ancient common ancestor. Darwin was committed to the abolition of slavery, in part because of his family's deeply held beliefs. It was his 'Sacred Cause' and at its core lay a belief in human racial unity. Desmond and Moore show how he extended to all life the idea of human brotherhood held by those who fought to abolish slavery, so developing our modern view of evolution. Desmond and Moore argue that only by understanding Darwin's Christian abolitionist inheritance can we shed new light on the perplexing mix of personal drive, public hesitancy and scientific radicalism that led him finally in 1871 to publish The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. The result is an epoch-making study of this eminent Victorian.
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