About The Relunctant Mr. Darwin

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

February 12, 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and October 1, 2009 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. To commemorate the contribution Darwin and his book have made to our understanding of the world, we chose The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution by David Quammen for this year’s One Book One Northwestern project. While we could have chosen Darwin’s Origin, or any of a number of other books about or by Darwin, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin is an ideal book for a community reading project. David Quammen is an award-winning nature and science writer who is one of the current masters of conveying information about biodiversity, the environment, and evolution to the general public. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin introduces readers to Charles Darwin upon his return to England following his travels on the Beagle, and describes the life of this meticulous scientist as he gathers evidence to support his theory. The book places the scientific information in context for students with little or no background in biology. It also describes Darwin’s hesitation to publish his work in the face of social and religious criticism. The presentation is very readable and addresses many of the concerns that our society holds about the theory of evolution today.

Darwin initiated a revolution in science and society with his theory of evolution by natural selection. As such it stands with the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo in its significance and enduring impact on modern science as well as sociological, philosophical, and literary thought. The theory raised the concepts of change and diversity in biological systems to intellectual prominence and placed humans in the natural world. Many people have found these ideas liberating, others have found them frightening; clearly, Darwin and the theory of evolution provide controversial material to stimulate serious intellectual discussions. The One Book One Northwestern project provides an opportunity for us as a community to discuss the theory with each other. We plan to facilitate these conversations through the use of an interactive website, classes, public lectures, activities in residence halls, and other activities. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin will provide us with common ground from which to begin these conversations.

Teresa Horton, Chair
2008/2009 One Book One Northwestern

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin (ISBN 978-0-393-32995-7) is available for purchase at the Norris Center Bookstore. All first-time incoming students receive a complimentary copy.