A New Look At the Descent of Man

By Carl Zimmer | September 7, 2007 12:57 am

The Descent of Man, Concise Edition.jpgI want to give readers of the Loom a heads up about book that I’ve edited that’s coming out in November. The author is a very interesting writer named Charles Darwin.

In 1871 Charles Darwin published pretty much his first and last word about human evolution: The Descent of Man. It’s a marvelous, but sometimes maddening book. Darwin did a remarkably good job of hypothesizing how humans evolved, especially when you consider that barely any hominid fossils had yet been found. But Darwin packed the book with detail, a lot of it having to do with all sorts of animals other than Homo sapiens. I’ve selected some key portions of the book for what I and my publisher are calling “the concise edition.” Admittedly, at 448 pages it may not immediately conjure up the word concise, but the full book is many hundreds of pages longer. Also bear in mind that this edition also contains commentary I’ve written for each section, in which I put the book in its historical context and reflect on how recent discoveries have either supported or overturned Darwin’s arguments. And to top it off, it comes with a forward by noted primatologist Frans de Waal.

I’ll be setting up a page with some more information over at my web site in the next few weeks. You can pre-order the book now on Amazon here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Writing Elsewhere
MORE ABOUT: Evolution

Comments (7)

  1. Good for you. And I’d love to see an edition of Darwin that had footnotes or interpolations where he was puzzled: “We now know that (insert research results here).”

  2. Despite being a big Darwin admirer, and having read a lot by him and about him, I’ve never read The Decent of Man. Looks like you have made this the right time to take care of that over-sight!

    What’s really amazing about Darwin is how much he actually got RIGHT, despite that lack of fossils, and no knowledge whatsoever of DNA. My only disappointment in him is that he sat on the original theory for so long, and may not have even come out with it in 1859 had it not been for Wallace. Janet Browne’s powerful two volume biography makes it apparent to me that he was deeply fearful of the back-lash.

  3. Wonderful!

    I’ve always been afraid of reading ‘the classics’, for fear of them being ‘outdated’ and a too difficult read. But edited and annotated by you is kind of a warranty.

    I’ll be happy to pre-order it from the near-local amazon

  4. John Hynes

    Any chance on the same treatment for Origin of Species? When reading it, I was constantly wondering “how recent discoveries have either supported or overturned Darwin’s arguments.” Who better to do so than the best science writer on the planet? I look forward to reading this one when it comes out, as I have enjoyed reading your others.

  5. Doug

    Carl: Love your stuff, man, but it’s “foreword.” Please fix.

    The Grammar Police

  6. And, as promised, ,it’s done. I’ve also taken the occasion to order another of your books which I could not find on my usual online book shop.

    Now, I just have to wait ’til the end of November. Sigh!

  7. Chris Booth

    This is good news. It is always good to see that you’ve got a new book coming out. I will certainly be buying it.

    Congratulations, Carl.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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