Darwin’s First Theory, by Rob Wesson
Retracing Darwin’s footsteps in South America and beyond, geologist Rob Wesson treks across the Andes, cruises waters charted by the Beagle, hunts for fossils in Uruguay and Argentina, and explores sites of long vanished glaciers in Scotland and Wales. As he follows Darwin’s path―literally and intellectually―Wesson experiences the land as Darwin did, engages with his observations, and tackles the same questions Darwin had about our ever-changing Earth.
Upon his return from his five-year journey aboard the Beagle, after examining the effects of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and more, Darwin conceived his theory of subsidence and uplift―his first theory.
These concepts and attitudes―the vastness of time; the enormous cumulative impact of almost imperceptibly slow change; change as a constant feature of the environment―underlie Darwin’s subsequent discoveries in evolution. And this peculiar way of thinking remains vitally important today as we enter the human-dominated Anthropocene age.
Expertly interweaving science and adventure, Darwin’s First Theory is a riveting and revelatory journey around the world with one of the greatest scientific minds in history.
Praise for Darwin’s First Theory
“Rob Wesson’s Darwin’s First Theory dares, thank goodness, to work some of the rare Darwinian territory that is actually unexplored.”
The New York Times Book Review
“An eye-opening account of a less well-known side of Darwin. Wesson hits the jackpot when he concentrates on his subject and reveals that 20 years before Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, his genius was already in evidence. A welcome addition to Darwin studies.”
“An impressive addition to the huge body of literature on Darwin and his work. Wesson has a broad understanding and a deep familiarity with primary and secondary sources on Darwin and his contemporaries―and he has a master storyteller’s talent for engaging and illuminating narrative.”
Natural History Magazine
“A wonderful evocation of Darwin’s great theory of subsidence and uplift, the substrate of his later, explosive discovery of evolution.”
“In witty prose, Rob Wesson has captured a side of Darwin that is often omitted in popular writings―that of a geologist. Appropriate quotes from Darwin and Robert Fitzroy, a polymath himself, enhance the eloquence of all three authors. Darwin’s First Theory reveals the power and the glory of curiosity. ”
Peter Molnar, Geologist, University of Colorado
“An illuminating retelling of a neglected episode in epoch-making science.”
“Readers interested in Darwin, the earth sciences, and field-based research will find this well worth their time.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Distinguished seismologist Rob Wesson left his desk and followed Darwin’s footsteps. He traces Darwin’s pioneering development of geological theories of a dynamic earth and illuminates the growth in science leading to our modern understanding of plate tectonics.”
George Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University
“A lively, readable account of field experiences while chasing the records in southern Chile of several of Earth’s most severe earthquakes. A very welcome addition to the history of the geosciences.”
Robert H. Dott, Jr., Geologist and Historian of Geology, University of Wisconsin
“An exciting scientific travelogue. Indispensable reading for rock hounds and fans of natural history.”