Biology

With a foreword by Margaret Mead: Darwin examines genetically determined behavior, combining the science of evolution with insights into human psychology.

Published in 1872, thirteen years after On the Origin of Species, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals is devoted to documenting what Darwin believes is the genetically determined aspects of behavior. Together with The Descent of Man (1871), it sketches out Darwin’s main thesis of human origins. Here he traces the animal origins of human characteristics such as pursing of the lips in concentration, tightening of the muscles around the eyes in anger and efforts of memory. Darwin’s thesis is that if the outward signs of behavior and emotions are shown to be universal in man and similar to animals then they must be due to inherited evolutionary adaptation, not culturally acquired characteristics. Several British psychiatrists, in particular James Crichton-Browne, were consultants for the book, which forms Darwin’s main contribution to psychology. Darwin’s collection of detailed observations along with his acute observational abilities and pictures (a landmark in the history of illustrations within the body of the text) corroborate his thesis and form the basis of the book. The foreword by Margaret Mead is of great interest in and of itself. Her foreword, illustrated with pictures provided by her, is designed to subvert Darwin’s chief idea. Paul Ekman, a later editor of this same work, “wonder[s] how Darwin would have felt had he known that his book was introduced by a cultural relativist who had included in his book pictures of those most opposed to his theory.”

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. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction by James Moore and Adrian Desmond.

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.

Charles Darwin (1809-82), a Victorian scientist and naturalist, has become one of the most famous figures of science to date. The advent of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859 challenged and contradicted all contemporary biological and religious beliefs.

If you enjoyed The Descent of Man, you might like Darwin's On the Origin of Species, also available in Penguin Classics.
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