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The Financial Times August 9 2008 The origin of theories By Andrew Robinson Published August 9 2008 03 00 Last updated August 9 2008 03 00 O n the Origin of Species shook Victorian Britain in 1859 and has today made Darwin more famous than even Newton and Einstein But it has never been a work of popular science long difficult and poorly illustrated it reached a mere 10 000 copies with its fifth edition in 1869 The book that really explained Darwinism to the world was a bestselling provocatively illustrated book in German Published in Berlin in 1868 translated into English as The History of Creation in 1876 it was frequently reprinted until 1926 Its author was the controversial Ernst Haeckel professor of comparative anatomy at the University of Jena a fanatical convert to Darwinism In 1866 aged 32 he made a pilgrimage to see Darwin at Down House in Kent Much later Haeckel remembered an impression of the kind of noble worldly wisdom of the Greek ancients that of a Socrates or an Aristotle Darwin was happy to reciprocate he added lines to Haeckel s fifth edition about the German s great knowledge and abilities So began a lasting friendship But as biologist Michael Boulter reports in Darwin s Garden he gave a gentle warning to his guest Your boldness sometimes makes me tremble Unlike Haeckel or their pugnacious mutual friend Thomas Huxley Darwin was never polemical about his revolutionary ideas The Tragic Sense of Life Robert Richards excellent well illustrated and scholarly biography of Haeckel draws out some striking similarities in the two men Both were encouraged by their fathers to study medicine then abandoned it in disgust Both had an overwhelming urge to botanise in exotic foreign parts in their early twenties Both married their first cousins And both rejected their religious faith after a death through illness Haeckel s wife Anna died in 1864 while Darwin lost his 10 year old daughter Annie But the scientists were also very different Haeckel s scientific



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