The many lives of Charles Darwin: early biographies and the definitive evolutionist
309 Bethune College, Department of Humanities, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada
This article focuses on the early book-length biographies of Darwin published from his death in 1882 up to 1900. By making 1900 the cutoff point I can examine the biographies produced when the iconic figure was not yet set in stone, and before the rediscovery of Mendel's work in the early twentieth century and the anniversary celebrations of 1909 changed the way in which Darwin was regarded. Darwin's biographers dealt with three major themes. First, several biographers emphasized his scientific abilities, in particular his powers of observation and his prowess in conducting experiments. Second, many biographers discussed his character, a key issue in determining whether or not he could be trusted as a scientific guide. Finally, his scientific theories and religious beliefs, and how they related to the evolutionary controversy, formed a topic taken up by most biographers. By focusing on these three themes, the biographies published before 1900 were important in shaping the image of Darwin that was forming in American and British culture.
Darwin, biography, cultural icon
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