Tuesday, January 26, 2010



Charles Robert Darwin (February 1809 –April 1882) had an early interest in nature. While attending the University of Edinburgh he studied marine invertebrates. Invited to sail on the HMS Beagle his published journal of the five-year voyage made him famous as a popular author. Intrigued by the geographical distribution of wildlife he investigated the transmutation of species. From these studies he developed his theory of natural selection in 1838. Some twenty years later in 1859 he published these in his controversial book entitled On The Origin of Species.

Joseph Dalton Hooker (June 1817 – December 1911) was a British botanist and explorer. For twenty years he was Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew.

Thomas Henry Huxley (May 1825 – June 1895) was an English biologist. He had little formal schooling and taught himself almost everything he knew. His area of expertise was with vertebrates especially the relationship between apes and humans. He concluded that there was an evolutionary connection between the two species.

The Christian evangelical fervour in England during the 1830's and 1840's had many believing that the world was just 6000 years old and that God created the universe, earth and man in only 6 days. They thought that man had not changed biologically since that time. The idea of any evolution from God’s handiwork was totally unacceptable and anyone promoting that idea could have been charged with sedition and blasphemy.

Paul Bettany: English naturalist Charles Darwin
Jennifer Connelly: his wife Emma
Martha West: their eldest daughter 9-year-old Annie
Benedict Cumberbatch: Charles’ best friend and fellow scientist Joseph Hooker
Toby Jones: Charles’ biggest supporter Thomas Huxley
Jeremy Northam: family friend the Reverend John Brodie-Innes

This might have been a biography about one of history’s most famous scientists who proposed one of the most ground-breaking concepts in human history. Instead it is more about Darwin’s relationship with his daughter and to a lesser extent with his wife.

Consequently there are several major shortcomings for those who are not intimately familiar with Darwin and his work:
• instead of showing where he travelled on the Beagle and the discoveries he made we are shown a fanciful snippet of the first encounters with the natives
• not providing sufficient information about the scientific basis for his theories nor explaining why he spent so much time with pigeons
• not setting the scene, giving some idea of the temper of the times
• devoting so much screen time to Annie and so little to Darwin’s peers who played a more significant role in his published work than his daughter did

for some intense thematic material.

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