Read Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution by Emma Townshend Online


Anyone who has ever looked at a dog waiting to go for a walk and thought there was something age-old and almost human in its sad expression can take comfort in knowing that Charles Darwin did exactly the same thing. But Darwin didn’t just stop at feeling that there was some connection between humans and dogs. A great naturalist, pioneer of the theory of evolution, and incuAnyone who has ever looked at a dog waiting to go for a walk and thought there was something age-old and almost human in its sad expression can take comfort in knowing that Charles Darwin did exactly the same thing. But Darwin didn’t just stop at feeling that there was some connection between humans and dogs. A great naturalist, pioneer of the theory of evolution, and incurable dog-lover, Darwin used his much-loved dogs as evidence in his continuing argument that all animals, including human beings, descended from one common ancestor. Emma Townshend looks at Darwin’s life through a uniquely canine perspective, from his fondly written letters home inquiring after the health of family pets to his profound scientific consideration of the ancestry of the domesticated dog. Vintage photographs of dogs, together with modern diagrams, help show the visual aspects of the evolutionary theory....

Title : Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780711230651
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 144 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution Reviews

  • Kelly V
    2019-02-17 01:10

    I think this is one of the best books I've read lately, and I managed to read the entire thing in one Sunday, without really trying. I just found it very charming. It's a well-written, concise explanation of the development of Darwin's theory of evolution through the lens of his relationship with his many dogs throughout his lifetime. It is scientifically sound and informative, which is great, but the most unique thing it does is give you a real sense of Darwin the person. It felt like I had gotten to know a very personal part of him, in ways you wouldn't usually expect. I have always been a huge fan of Darwin--he was smart and observant, but humble and self-conscious, and relatively respectful of women and children. He loved his wife even though later in life he began to suspect that the fact that she was his (first) cousin might have contributed to the factors leading to the death of his first daughter, which he never got over. They just hadn't figured genetics or heredity out yet.This book provides a whole 'nother element to my view of him. While he was growing up, his family had numerous dogs that they adored and anthropomorphized rather like we do today, and this continued with his own wife and kids. When his sister wrote to him while he was away at school, they referred to one of his dogs as his "nephew" and they often prefaced the names of their dogs with "Mr." or "Mrs." (which I love, because I do that all the time with my cats). They even had one of their small dogs whose leg was badly broken all fixed up my local surgeons (!). When his sister wrote him to tell him of this while he was in Chile during his Beagle journey, she talked about this before mentioning the cholera epidemic that had struck their area and killed a bunch of people. This was probably rather unusual, given that during that time animals were generally regarded for their utility and nothing more (as they still often are in rural areas today, for instance). The book also does touch on some of the general romanticizing of dogs that started growing during the Victorian period, so they certainly weren't the only family like this. But it's still fun to read about.

  • Constance
    2019-02-07 18:44

    A short, easy to read, but well researched bio of Darwin and his development of The Origin of Species and later writings.I have a new appreciation of how radical his writings were in his time of creationist thinking and how he deliberately wrote to 'soft sell' his theories. I liked it that people who couldn't be convinced of his position could still remain best of friends with Charles which doesn't seem to happen in our political world today.Darwin could become angry when educated people rejected the evolution of human beings from ape-like ancestors. 'For my own part,' he wrote, 'I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper... as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offer up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.' My feelings exactly.For dog lovers with absolutely no science leanings, read p. 90 through to the end where it talks of how Darwin looked at the similarities between animals and man, including qualities of happiness, kindness, loyalty, imagination/dreaming, self-consciousness, morality and even religious devotion and the matter of man's soul which was all very interesting.Bump up to 4 1/2 stars for the old photographs, known artist paintings and charming illustrations---as well as Darwin's observation that dogs have a sense of humor (beyond play and deception) which I have experienced too and have not admitted to non-dog people and science types I hang with who might dismiss that as anthropomorphic! (Chuck and I could have been buddies.)

  • Crosby
    2019-02-12 17:44

    I read this just for education purposes. It is a simple book to read and is entirely focused on how Charles Darwin's ideas were influenced by his observations on how humans had selected for the vast variety of dog breeds. His love of his pets comes through very clearly. Before marrying he even drew up a list of positives and negatives as to why or why he should not get married---one of the positives was "she's better than a dog"!

  • Karen
    2019-01-25 00:52

    I picked this book up at the library on the basis that if a book has the word ‘dog’ or ‘wolf’ in the title, I check it out with the hope of it being something interesting. You soon learn from doing this that books with ‘dog’ and ‘wolf’ in the title often have in fact nothing to do with the animals. In the case of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, despite the lack of dogs, I luckily discovered a wonderful book. In the case of The Tenderness of Wolves, I unfortunately found a book that had nothing to do with wolves and instead lots of death and murder – not what I had intended reading on my honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies. As I flicked through Darwin’s Dogs I spotted a page with an image captioned ‘Dignity and Impudence’, featuring a dignified hound and and an impudent little Westie. As the owner of two Westies, I couldn’t help finding it utterly charming to know that the breed’s frustrating yet loveable quirks had been around for centuries. This was enough to convince me to take the book home.An oil painting by Landseer portraying a dignified bloodhound type dog and innocent looking yet impudent West Highland Terrier.I was unsure how much the book was going to be focused on dogs, and how much it was going to be focused on Darwin, but seeing as though I am a zoology graduate I would not mind if it was the latter. The combination of the two topics in fact made it quite a perfect book for me. I found it fascinating to read about how dogs had influenced Darwin’s work so strongly. My own interest in zoology derives a lot from my interest in dogs. I once read a quote from my dissertation supervisor Tim Birkhead in BBC Wildlife magazine where he stated that dog owners are in the best position for studying animal behaviour because of the sheer number of hours they spend observing dogs. This resounds very strongly with me, because throughout my degree when critically reading and analysing scientific studies I would often compare the information back to what I knew about dogs, and in that way form my opinion on the study. It’s also great for giving myself an excuse for all the time I spend just watching my own dogs play, and watching training and agility videos on Youtube!I don’t think this book would appeal to every dog-lover, but I think it would appeal to those who had any sort of scientific interest in dogs. Not because this is a book about the science of dogs, but if you like any biological science how could you not be interested in reading about how the theory of evolution by natural selection came about? (Shamefully, I have had the Origin of Species on by bookcase since the start of my degree and not read a single page, pretty much just because I don’t like the font used in the book!) Certainly any pedigree dog breeder would like the book for the pat on the back it gives them for the importance of their contribution to science. I would thoroughly recommend it.

  • Laura K
    2019-01-29 18:13

    This book was educational and enjoyable. Prior to reading it, I had no knowledge of Charles Darwin as a person, only as a scientist. Having been educated in a strict religious high school, I was taught only creationism. In college, I was taught the evolutionary theory, but only in a dry and routine manner. "Darwin's Dogs" focuses on Darwin's love of dogs and the large influence his observation of dogs had on his work. We are shown a Darwin who had great compassion and love for his dogs, for his family and for other pets and animals, who considered becoming a minister rather than a scientist, who worried over how his theories would affect those around him when they felt their beliefs challenged. Here was a man who could not even bear to sacrifice pigeons for scientific research and had to engage his cousin to help him. I also learned that he was instrumental in establishing laws that specified humane treatment for research animals and worked against animal cruelty (not easy in the times in which he lived). I was further enlightened when I learned how his actual words were misinterpreted by his critics and those who felt threatened and how much of his energy was spent trying to convince the world that "animals were more" rather than "humans were less". He argued that humans could not possibly know that dogs don't think, don't dream, don't mourn or play jokes. Opposing thought held that "only humans can think, can reason, etc." His research and observations led him to believe that dogs are not devoid of these abilities, although they are different in dogs than in humans. I found his work remarkable, especially considering how scientific AND religious thought has evolved (!) since Victorian times. For instance, DNA research now proves some of what Darwin theorized. At the time Darwin was a young man, churches commonly taught that the species were "fixed", that is, that God created two perfect specimens of each species, perfect and unchanging. In order to be a true "creationist" one would have to believe that. Even the scientific discovery that some species had become extinct was seen as a unwelcome challenge to the status quo. This seems ridiculous and extreme today, but it does illustrate what he was facing, and also shows hope that the two schools of thought can, over time, reconcile some differences. Among Darwin's closest friends were clerics, one in particular who remained close to him throughout life. They were able to debate, discuss and respectfully disagree with each other, while maintaining their friendship throughout their lives. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in science, loves dogs, or is interested in the ongoing debate between creationism and evolution.

  • Bob Nichols
    2019-02-12 19:08

    Darwin closeness to dogs serves as scaffolding for the author’s story of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Her description is excellent. The discussion of Darwin’s dogs is almost incidental. The author provides a brief but good account of the historical context for Darwin’s theory. Among the religious, each species was seen as a “perfect creation of God,” and variations were explained as flaws “from the original perfection of design.” Darwin’s theory flipped this around. Variation is the norm (leading to a debate about what constitutes a species) and differences are what gives an organism “a slight advantage over others.” Others believed in Darwin’s science but could not accept that humans were organisms along with the rest of nature. Darwin’s good friend, Charles Lyell, for example, gave the human body to biology, but kept the mind and soul as separate entities, “created by God.” Interestingly, this division between biology and mind seems to pervade a good amount of thinking about Darwin’s theory today.Darwin began “Origins” with a discussion about “variation in domesticated animals and plants,” which he saw as our human refinement of what nature does as “one huge and incredibly skilled breeder” via natural selection. Variation among individuals is what nature works on and this, in time, leads to relative fitness advantage and species formation. Variation is not just about physical traits. It’s also about disposition and temperament. Each animal has “its own separate being, it’s own ‘individuality,’” the author says of Darwin. Presumably, unless we are regarded as separate from the rest of nature, that inborn individuality of disposition and temperament and character applies to us as well.

  • Sasha
    2019-02-04 20:52

    I loved this book. In this slim book Townshend explores Charles Darwin's life-long love of animals, especially dogs, chronicling Darwin's life and writings along with the animal influences that informed his work. Townshend also highlights the controversial naturalist's reluctance to disrupt the ruling creationist view of the day by publishing his theory of evolution while developing a further theory on human and animal similarities. Darwin argued in later writings that animals, namely dogs, had characteristics that rivaled human capacities, eroding the still-debated subjects of human uniqueness within the animal kingdom and animal consciousness. I really enjoyed this perspective on Charles Darwin, his animals, and his work.

  • tana
    2019-01-31 01:00

    This book is a fun way to get to know Darwin and his theories through his work and relationships with his dogs.

  • PauleenB
    2019-02-14 00:44

    Fairly lightweight but interesting