Book review: ‘Darwin and the Barnacle: the Story of One Tiny Creature and History's Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough’

by Rebecca Stott.

Charles Darwin's eight-year barnacle odyssey.

Darwin and the Barnacle

Having come up with his big idea of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin waited 20 years before publishing. One reason for this apparent ‘delay’ was that Darwin felt the need to establish himself as an expert in species classification—which is how he came to spend eight years looking at barnacles.

Even Darwin fanatics who have, like me, read Darwin's correspondence for the barnacle years, must have found their eyes glazing over at some points. For the non-specialist, barnacles are not the easiest animals to get excited about, and Darwin's writing is very technical. Rebecca Stott's book, however, places Darwin's barnacle work in context, skirts round the more technical stuff, and turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable.

There are plenty of full-blown Darwin biographies available; I hope this book will begin a trend for more detailed analyses of specific periods in Darwin's life aimed at the general reader.

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletter

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