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June 2022 Vol. 59 No. 10

Reaktion Books

The following review appeared in the June 2022 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Science & Technology
History of Science & Technology

Archibald, J. David. Charles Darwin. Reaktion Books, 2021. 240p bibl ISBN 9781789144406 pbk, $19.00; ISBN 9781789144390 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This concise biography of Charles Darwin narrates the major events in the great naturalist's life. The volume is part of the publisher's "Critical Lives" series, which documents in brief format the lives and contributions of persons considered to be important cultural figures of the modern world. Archibald (emer., San Diego State Univ.) focuses on Darwin's strenuous effort as he worked on his evolution book and the influential role Alfred Russel Wallace played in prompting Darwin to publish his ideas on the subject. Archibald also discusses Darwin's health problems, such as heart palpitations, nervous exhaustion, and digestive difficulties without indulging in speculation about possible psychological causes of these afflictions as some authors have done. Rather, he attributes some of Darwin's maladies to the Chagas disease that Darwin probably contracted while he was on his eventful five-year journey aboard HMS Beagle. Archibald cites Darwin's severe facial eczema, which induced his wife, Emma, to recommend that he grow his iconic beard. The loss of their beloved daughter, Annie, which shook Darwin's religious faith, is briefly recounted. The text is well documented and includes excellent illustrations, but curiously there is no index. Undergraduates majoring in various academic disciplines as well as scholars of the history of ideas will particularly enjoy this work.

--J. S. Schwartz, emeritus, CUNY College of Staten Island

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students and faculty. General readers.