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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection (Hardback)
  • Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection (Hardback)
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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection (Hardback)

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£35.50
Hardback 672 Pages / Published: 02/05/2017
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Darwin's concept of natural selection has been exhaustively studied, but his secondary evolutionary principle of sexual selection remains largely unexplored and misunderstood. Yet sexual selection was of great strategic importance to Darwin because it explained things that natural selection could not and offered a naturalistic, as opposed to divine, account of beauty and its perception. Only now, with Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection, do we have a comprehensive and meticulously researched account of Darwin's path to its formulation one that shows the man, rather than the myth, and examines both the social and intellectual roots of Darwin's theory. Drawing on the minutiae of his unpublished notes, annotations in his personal library, and his extensive correspondence, Evelleen Richards offers a richly detailed, multilayered history. Her fine-grained analysis comprehends the extraordinarily wide range of Darwin's sources and disentangles the complexity of theory, practice, and analogy that went into the making of sexual selection. Richards deftly explores the narrative strands of this history and vividly brings to life the chief characters involved. Twenty years in the making and a true milestone in the history of science, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection illuminates the social and cultural contingencies of the shaping of an important if controversial biological concept.

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226436906
Number of pages: 672
Weight: 1225 g
Dimensions: 229 x 153 x 53 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"[A]n ambitious undertaking, offering by far the most comprehensive account of the development of Charles Darwin's theory of sexual selection. Richards 'explores the intellectual and social roots' of Darwin's theory, 'analyzes its stages of theory building in his published and unpublished writings and its elaboration in The Descent of Man, and reviews its contemporary reception, reinterpretations and applications'. Richards lavishes on sexual selection the kind of treatment previously reserved by historians for natural selection. This attention is long overdue, for sexual selection, as Richards rightly insists, was more clearly Darwin's own creation."--Annals of Science
"Far more than natural selection, sexual selection was distinctively Darwin's own theory, and it underpinned, albeit not without considerable controversy, much of his wider evolutionary thinking. In meticulously reconstructing just how Darwin formulated his controversial concept of the struggle for mates, Evelleen Richards provides perhaps the richest and most detailed account of the making of any scientific theory. Ranging from Enlightenment physiognomy to Victorian high fashion, and examining an unprecedented array of both Darwin's own writings and his voluminous reading, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection is a tour de force of rigorous historical scholarship."--Gowan Dawson, author of Show Me the Bone
"This work investigates 'the intellectual and social roots of Charles Darwin's theory of sexual selection' by examining his notes and published writings, particularly The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Richards explains how and why Darwin invoked this concept, including a chronological history of its development. In this thorough, comprehensive study, she considers such broad themes as race, sexual politics, marriage, class, adaptation, fashion, competition, beauty, and religion. Even though Darwin regarded natural selection as the prime force driving evolutionary change, he recognized it could not account for the presence of all adaptations. Darwin advanced sexual selection to explain how such traits as coloration in birds and insects were selected, although they did not have protective value. He reasoned their bright colors made males more attractive to females in mating. His 'big species book, ' the incomplete Natural Selection, was written before he adapted its ideas into the published Origin. Darwin deferred discussion of human evolution and sexual selection in Origin and later addressed them in Descent. Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection has excellent illustrations, which help elucidate its narrative. It is best suited for upper-level students and historians of science. Recommended."--Choice
"Richards's fascinating story of Darwin's other theory offers an intriguingly different picture of the development of Darwin's evolutionary thinking as a whole, in which sexual selection assumes a central position. For this reason, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection deserves to take its place alongside the best of the substantial scholarly treatments of Darwin from the last three decades. . . . Gracefully written, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection offers its readers a lively narrative deeply informed by Richards's formidable grasp of both previous scholarly works and the abundant primary sources. She draws extensively on Darwin's letters, notes, articles, and books, as well as the writings and correspondence of Darwin's friends and his intellectual inspirations, and she manages to weave them all into a rich tapestry illuminating the convoluted formation of Darwin's evolutionary theory shaped by the rapidly changing political, social, religious, cultural, and scientific context. This is impressive, painstaking scholarship at its best."--Journal of the History of Biology

"It troubled Darwin, a privileged white Victorian man, to impute agency to women and aesthetic discrimination to non-Europeans. His peers rejected the theory. But biologists are revisiting it. Science historian Evelleen Richards's book vividly excavates its origins. Darwin developed his ideas on sexual selection while immersed in fields as diverse as embryology and pigeon breeding. Deeply personal matters such as choosing his wife, Emma, and daily preoccupations such as women's fashions, also played a part. In Richards's view, Darwin's opposition to slavery did not, as others argue, motivate his work on sexual selection. What did was his human attempt to answer scientific, political, social and personal questions."

--Elizabeth Yale "Nature "
"Evelleen Richards' landmark new book forever puts to rest the notion that Victorian ideas about gender, race, and sex were somehow tangential to the development of evolutionary theory. As Richards astutely argues, Victorian ideas about race, class, gender, and sex were at the very center of Darwin's thinking and of his daily life. But this book is much more than an exploration of the gendered aspects of The Descent of Man. Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection provides a rich, detailed, intellectual, cultural, and personal history of the major ideas presented in The Descent of Man, on the development of the theory of sexual selection. . . . The book's most significant contribution, to my mind, is that it is not just an intellectual history--it is a vibrant and complex cultural genealogy of ideas. Richards argues time and again, very convincingly, that Darwin's scientific thinking developed not only in conversation with his scientific peers and through his observations, but also in connection to his family life, his romantic ideas, and the broader culture of which he was a part, especially Victorian visual culture. . . . Perhaps the most remarkable and surprising thing about Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection, at 536 pages, is how enjoyable it is to read. Richards has a beautiful, enviable style; for a book so dense with ideas and long-forgotten thinkers (as well as those we remember), it is masterfully written and very engaging. Richards knows when gently to remind the reader to whom a particular name refers and when to insert a humorous anecdote. She also skilfully incorporates the precise language of various debates in a readerly fashion that establishes the essence but does not bog down the reader in long quotations. While many readers will read Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection straight through, from cover to cover, it is also the sort of book that will serve as a staple in one's library for one's entire career--as an encyclopedia of ideas. Not only will the appeal of this book be immediate, it will endure. Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection is essential reading for anyone hoping to engage with or enter into the study of eighteenth-nineteenth-century intellectual history, history of science, or Darwin studies, and it is a model for what the history of science might become as we continue to explore and understand the links between the life sciences and the lives of scientists."
--Metascience
"A work of tremendous merit and value. It is my intention to re-shelve my copy of this book so that it sits right next to my copy of The Descent of Man. It belongs next to the volume in the same way that notes belong in texts, in order to more fully reveal the foundations of ideas at the time of their conception."
--Evolutionary Psychological Science

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