Darwin's Armada

Posted on February 8, 2012 by Jack Kelly
Tags: readings

Darwin’s Voyage. Requires railroad. Costs 400 shields. Gives two free techs on completion. That’s the Civ 2 perspective, anyway. The high-school science version isn’t much better: Darwin rocks around the Galapagos for a while, looks at birds and comes back with the theory of evolution. They never mention that he spent most of the voyage seasick.

Darwin’s Armada is the book that I have most recently finished. I love books about scientists. The disputes between researchers and the personal sacrifices made (especially when it comes to controversial ideas) make for fascinating reading. This particular book looks at the origins of the theory of evolution by natural selection in terms of four voyages by four different naturalists: Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Joseph Hooker and Andrew Wallace. The nautical flavouring extends to the description of ideas and places ashore and is overdone in parts. Darwin and his fellow researchers are often referred to as “Admirals” and “Captains”, and the language of battle is heavily used when describing the various debates and discussions.

Even so, the book is still pretty good. It deals more with the adventures at sea and on land than Darwin’s theory. And what adventures they are! The voyages and expeditions include India, the Amazon, Antarctica, Australia and (obviously) the Galapagos. Along the way, the naturalists dance on pack ice, examine parasites found in their ships’ tow nets and travel on a ship whose clock is a coconut husk.

I know I’ve praised just about every book I’ve written about in this category, but that’s because I’ve genuinely enjoyed all of them. This might not appeal quite so much to the less nautically-inclined, but it would probably still be a very interesting read.

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