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Visitors! Danger!

Lorraine Daston: Charles Darwin, 8 May 2003

Charles Darwin. Vol. II: The Power of Place 
by Janet Browne.
Cape, 591 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 224 04212 2
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... about a revolution, but in his amiable ordinariness he was a most unlikely candidate for genius. Janet Browne’s magisterial two-volume biography of Darwin takes as its epigraph a line from The Woman in White: ‘We don’t want genius in this country, unless it is accompanied by respectability.’ Darwin was a genius tailor-made to Victorian ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke, 21 July 1983

Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... great sensitivity to Darwin’s intellectual inheritance. It suffers, too, by comparison with Janet Browne’s meticulous history of biogeography, which is uncommonly lucid on the modifications Darwin had to make to his theory during the 1840s and 1850s – modifications which, in certain respects, brought him closer to the principles already ...

Heroic Irrigations

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1990

The English Spa 1560-1815: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry.
Athlone, 401 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 485 11374 0
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The Medical History of Waters and Spas 
edited by Roy Porter.
Wellcome Institute, 150 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 85484 095 8
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... invite comparison with the experiences of Charles Darwin at Malvern, described here by Dr Janet Browne. This was the period of the heroic cold-water cure popularised by the peasant Vincenz Priessnitz at Gräfenberg in Silesia and profitably taken up by the doctors James Manby Gully and James Wilson. Darwin’s trouble was diagnosed, with his own ...

Small Special Points

Rosemary Hill: Darwin and the Europeans, 23 May 2019

Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Vol. 26, 1878 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt, James Secord and the editors of the Darwin Correspondence Project.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £94.99, October 2018, 978 1 108 47540 2
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... dominion over the rest of creation. To achieve this balance Darwin was obliged, as the historian Janet Browne has pointed out, to struggle with his vocabulary. He did not use the word ‘evolution’ because in 1859 it meant principally ‘the unfolding of hidden embryological structures’. Instead he talked of ‘descent with modification’. The ...

Madness and Method

Mark Philp, 3 April 1986

The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry Vol. I: People and Ideas, Vol. II: Institutions and Society 
edited by W.F. Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael Shepherd.
Tavistock, 316 pp., £19.95, November 1985, 0 422 79430 9
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Madness, Morality and Medicine: A Study of the York Retreat 1796-1914 
by Anne Digby.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £27.50, October 1985, 0 521 26067 1
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... and causes of madness were directly legible in the physiognomies of the insane – although, as Janet Browne points out in her account of Charles Darwin’s encounter with this approach, it seems that what the psychiatrist could see in the photographs of madmen was simply not visible to the layman.) This separation means that even if we acknowledge the ...

Brute Nature

Rosemary Dinnage, 6 March 1997

Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade 
by Andrew Scull, Charlotte Mackenzie and Nicholas Hervey.
Princeton, 363 pp., £23, February 1997, 0 691 03411 7
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... claimed to deal with lunatics without coercion. We hope, too, to admire John Conolly and W.A.F. Browne, born thirty and forty years respectively after Haslam. Both were genteel but poor boys who had to struggle for an education; medicine was the obvious career for them. Conolly lectured briefly at the new University of London medical school, was backstabbed ...

Straw Ghosts

Nicholas Humphrey, 2 October 1980

This house is haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist 
by Guy Lyon Playfair.
Souvenir, 288 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 285 62443 1
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Science and the Supernatural 
by John Taylor.
Temple Smith, 180 pp., £7.50, June 1980, 0 85117 191 5
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... interpretation to anything which might otherwise suggest we are being fooled. When, for example, Janet Harper, the teenage girl in the Enfield council house, confesses under hypnosis that she and her sister are responsible for causing ‘all the trouble’, Mr Playfair is worried for only a moment before he decides that what ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin, 7 January 2010

... words, one of those rare beings, as likeable as he was impressive.’ To Darwin’s biographer Janet Browne, Darwin was ‘basically a good man, humble and kind, and always did his best to act according to the traditional values he had learned as a child’. ‘It was his very ordinariness,’ she writes, ‘that captivated people expecting to meet a ...

Nothing Becomes Something

Thomas Laqueur: Pathography, 22 September 2016

When Breath Becomes Air 
by Paul Kalanithi.
Bodley Head, 228 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 84792 367 7
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... an honesty, a truth of writing, that took my breath away. Be ready. Be seated,’ Verghese warns. Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times that ‘to read this book is to feel that Dr Kalanithi still lives, with enormous power to influence the lives of others though he is gone’. ‘Unmissable.’ The New Yorker called it ‘a manifesto for the ...

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