Colin Tudge


Darwin’s Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists


Bloomsbury 383pp £25 order from our bookshop

Science is a human pursuit and the history of its ideas, like all human history, is messy; the bigger the idea, the messier its history tends to be. No idea that anyone has had since, say, Muhammad founded Islam, has had more impact than Charles Darwin’s grand notion of evolution by means of natural selection, presented to the world in what he regarded as no more than a sketch in On the Origin of Species in 1859. The idea had its roots in natural history, of course, but also in politics, economics, metaphysics and religion, and has been developed by battalions of thinkers – some generous and humble, some jealous and mean-spirited. It takes great skill and scholarship to tell the story well, and Rebecca Stott does it wonderfully. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,