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Darwin's Evolving IdentityAdventure, Ambition, and the Sin of Speculation$
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Alistair Sponsel

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226523118

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226523255.001.0001

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The Life of a Tormented Geologist (and Enthusiastic Evolutionist)

The Life of a Tormented Geologist (and Enthusiastic Evolutionist)

(p.169) 9 The Life of a Tormented Geologist (and Enthusiastic Evolutionist)
Darwin's Evolving Identity

Alistair Sponsel

University of Chicago Press

This chapter opens part 3, “A Different Approach to Authorship,” by arguing that Darwin’s increasing anxiety was driven by the challenge of fulfilling his obligations as a geological author. With this argument, Sponsel pushes back against the notion that Darwin felt sickened by his private investigations into species. Darwin’s references to being ill while researching species indicate that this activity was far less susceptible to interruption by illness than his geological writing. He described his inability to make headway on geological projects in almost pathological terms while referring to occasions when he worked on his species notes as “idle” time that had been “frittered away.” Having decided to limit his first geology book to the topic of coral reefs, he used libraries in London to research every known reef in the world in an attempt to bolster his “theory” with “hard unbending facts.” Meanwhile, reviews of his Journal of Researches, which had finally been released two years after the pages were printed, criticized Darwin’s earlier speculative style. Adding to Darwin’s strain, Lyell grew impatient for Darwin to publish the coral reef book and proceeded to publish a new chapter on reefs that expanded on work Darwin had yet to release.

Keywords:   empiricism, observation and theory, place and space, writer's block, procrastination, Desmond and Moore, tormented evolutionist, glacial theory, Principles of Geology, Journal of Researches, Louis Agassiz

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