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review 2017-10-28 21:21
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin (ed.)
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated - Charles Darwin

This was the first published biography of Charles Darwin, as edited by one of his children. It's a little unusual in format, containing as it does, Darwin's (intended to be private) autobiography, a pile of Darwin's letters (up to 1860, the year Origin of Species was published), some memories from the editor and a final chapter by Huxley on the reception of Origin of species, from the perspective given by a 30 years' interval.

 

Previously I've found letters collections to give a lot of insight into the character of their authors, more so then their biographers do. The letters here make clear Darwin's conflict between his egotistical desire for "credit" and his Christianity-derived value of humility, which wins out in terms of his behaviour regarding Wallace. They also demonstrate Darwin's focus on scientific matters and his method of working as well as his ill-health through much of his adult life. I'm not sure I'd recommend this as a starting place for Darwin studies, though. Instead read The Voyage of the Beagle and Bowlby's biography first, (bearing in mind that the latter's Freudian theory of Darwin's character is less convincing than the theory that Darwin was Aspie, though).

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text 2017-10-24 18:32
Reading progress update: I've read 334 out of 346 pages.
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated - Charles Darwin

Huxley waxes hyperbolic in his praise of Darwin and contempt for Darwin's detractors, particularly Bishop Wilberforce.

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text 2017-10-22 13:47
Reading progress update: I've read 332 out of 346 pages.
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated - Charles Darwin

And so the great book is published! - Merely an "abstract" of the huge work that Darwin envisaged but never produced.

 

The final chapter of this book is an essay by Huxley on the reception of The Origin of Species. That'll be interesting.

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review 2017-10-10 19:00
The Secret Life of Germs / Philip Tierno
The Secret Life of Germs: What They Are, Why We Need Them, and How We Can Protect Ourselves Against Them - Philip M. Tierno Jr.

They're on everything we touch, eat, and breathe in -- on every inch of skin. And despite the advances of science, germs are challenging medicine in ways that were unimaginable ten years ago. No wonder the world is up in arms -- and using antibacterial soaps.

From the common cold, E. coli, and Lyme disease to encephalitis, mad cow disease, and flesh-eating bacteria, Tierno takes readers on a historical survey of the microscopic world. Rebuffing scare tactics behind recent "germ events" Tierno explains how the recycling of matter is the key to life. Yes, he'll tell you why it's a good idea to clean children's toys, why those fluffy towels may not be so clean, and why you never want to buy a second-hand mattress, but he also reveals that there is a lot we can do to prevent germ-induced suffering. You'll never look at anything the same way again.

 

 

I chose to read The Secret Life of Germs because I have often heard the author on CBC radio, brought in as an expert on microbial issues. It was published back in 2001, so some of the information it contains is out-of-date, though it was cutting edge at the time.

There is still plenty of good info in this volume. If nothing else, the author’s attention to prevention of disease was an excellent reminder as the cold & flu season approaches. I’m washing my hands more often and for longer than I had been—its so easy to get lazy about this! And handwashing goes so far towards keeping us healthy.

If I have any quibbles, it is with referring to all microbes as “germs.” To me, a germ is a disease causing agent, not a benign or helpful microbe. But I am sure that this title caught a bit more attention through using “germs” in the title than it might otherwise have garnered.

If you are interested in microbiology, may I recommend I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, which offers more recent information, also in an easy to read format.

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text 2017-10-08 14:53
Reading progress update: I've read 310 out of 346 pages.
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated - Charles Darwin

Darwin commences what will become The Origin of Species - a book that will change humanity's view of itself and the entire biosphere of Earth - or at least did for that part of humanity that is both educated and not wilfully stupid.

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