Love, Death and Darwinism

Sander Gliboff in American Scientist:

200812111619127053-2009-01BRevGliboffFA Decades of intense study of Darwin’s life, intellectual development, and social and political context have generated new kinds of questions about a number of matters: the interpersonal networks supporting him; the lives of the admirers and critics of his ideas; the dissemination and reading of evolutionary works; the sources of evolutionism in earlier French, German and British thought; and Darwin’s reception by various national and social groups. In the spirit of these expanding horizons of Darwin scholarship, The Tragic Sense of Life, by Robert J. Richards, provides not only a biography of the controversial German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), but also an important piece of the emerging picture of the Darwinian Revolution in its international and intergenerational dimensions.

Darwin biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore once remarked that the many previous books on their subject had been “curiously bloodless affairs.” Richards could almost say the same now about the Haeckel literature—were it not for the frequent attacks that have battered and bloodied the reputation of Haeckel, who has been accused of everything from scientific fraud and incompetence to racism, anti-Semitism and proto-Nazism.

More here.