The Book That Changed America

The Book That Changed America

How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited A Nation

Book - 2017
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A compelling portrait of a unique moment in American history when the ideas of Charles Darwin reshaped American notions about nature, religion, science and race

"A lively and informative history." - The New York Times Book Review

Throughout its history America has been torn in two by debates over ideals and beliefs.  Randall Fuller takes us back to one of those turning points, in 1860, with the story of the influence of Charles Darwin's just-published On the Origin of Species on five American intellectuals, including Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, the child welfare reformer Charles Loring Brace, and the abolitionist Franklin Sanborn. 
 
Each of these figures seized on the book's assertion of a common ancestry for all creatures as a powerful argument against slavery, one that helped provide scientific credibility to the cause of abolition.  Darwin's depiction of constant struggle and endless competition described America on the brink of civil war.  But some had difficulty aligning the new theory to their religious convictions and their faith in a higher power.  Thoreau, perhaps the most profoundly affected all, absorbed Darwin's views into his mysterious final work on species migration and the interconnectedness of all living things.
 
Creating a rich tableau of nineteenth-century American intellectual culture, as well as providing a fascinating biography of perhaps the single most important idea of that time, The Book That Changed America is also an account of issues and concerns still with us today, including racism and the enduring conflict between science and religion.
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, [2017]
ISBN: 9780525428336
Branch Call Number: 576.82 FUL
Characteristics: x, 294 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm

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n
naturalist
Jul 16, 2017

review by David Chivers, April 18, 2017, from the Humanist
https://thehumanist.com/magazine/may-june-2017/arts_entertainment/book-review-book-changed-america-darwins-theory-evolution-ignited-nation
“The Book That Changed America by Randall Fuller gives a well-researched and well-written account on the effect Charles Darwin’s views had on the course of American philosophy. What it doesn’t do nearly as well, despite its title, is explore the effect On the Origin of Species had on the country’s mass culture and the general public’s reaction to it.
When it was published and sent to America in late 1859, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was dropped into a nation already boiling with pro- and anti-slavery rhetoric. John Brown had just been tried and hung, and he was a hero to Northern abolitionists. So it’s not surprising that Darwin’s theory was viewed through the prism of the slavery debate.
Fuller’s book primarily deals with the American intellectual elite living in Concord, Massachusetts, and closely associated with the scientific class at nearby Harvard University. This includes the pantheon of American philosophical, literary, and scientific thinkers, including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May, and Harvard botanist Asa Gray, who became the book’s most notable American champion. Also included is Harvard’s Louis Agassiz, perhaps America’s foremost scientist at the time, and the one voice who did not accept Darwin’s theories. ...”

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