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The Readable Darwin

The Origin of Species as Edited for Modern Readers

Jan Pechenik

Publication Date - 20 August 2014

ISBN: 9781605353289

287 pages
6 x 9 inches

In Stock


The Origin of Species is one of the most influential books ever written. Not only has it inspired an incredible amount of scientific research on a remarkable number of different topics, but it laid a foundation for all modern arguments about organismal diversity. It is also a sterling example of scientific thinking at its best. Darwin is very clear about his evidence, but also very clear about the things he doesn't yet understand, even those that might pose problems for his thesis.

Unfortunately, his paragraphs are often very long; the sentences are often unwieldy and difficult for modern readers to follow; and Darwin assumes that his readers know a lot more about the people and organisms he talks about than most modern readers do. Although The Origin is widely known, it is now rarely read.

This new book is the product of careful editing of Darwin's sixth and final edition (published in 1872) into more readable prose, with numerous helpful drawings and photographs added. Dr. Pechenik's goal is to enable more people--including high school and college students'--to read and understand this fascinating and important book, and to enjoy doing so.

Every page of Darwin' s book has been painstakingly rewritten: long paragraphs have been broken up, sentences have been shortened and reorganized, and weak verbs have been replaced with stronger verbs. The various people that Darwin mentions have been identified, and his terminology and the logic of some of his arguments have been clarified, all to make Darwin's points clearer to today's readers while retaining the flavor of the original Origin. In addition, occasional footnotes clarify issues about which Darwin was uncertain or mistaken.

This book covers the first eight of The Origin's fifteen chapters, focusing on variation, the inheritance of variation, and the action of selection in bringing about major changes in the way that organisms look and behave.


The Companion Website includes all of the links and videos referenced in each chapter of the book.

About the Author(s)

Jan A. Pechenik is Professor of Biology at Tufts University. He earned a B.A. from Duke University and an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then completed his Ph.D. in the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He is author or coauthor on more than 125 research and review papers covering a number of areas in marine biology, including larval development, metamorphosis, and behavior. Dr. Pechenik has also authored Biology of the Invertebrates (2014) and A Short Guide to Writing about Biology (2012), and served as Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum program at Tufts from 1998-2001 and 2005-2008.


"The members of my lab and I read and discussed The Readable Darwin for our weekly lab meetings and we loved it! My lab is made up of many PhD, MS, and undergraduate students, and not many of us had read Charles Darwin's original text as it is not especially inviting to a modern audience. However, Dr. Pechenik's inclusion of numerous photos and his smoothly written prose make Darwin's classic truly enjoyable and entertaining to read. Dr. Pechenik's edits take nothing away from Darwin's work and his use of modern language will open the door for many more readers. I highly recommend this as required reading for budding and experienced evolutionary biologists and ecologists, and for anyone interested in a better understanding of both Darwin the man and his essential text." --Carolyn M. Kurle, University of California, San Diego

"I appreciate Pechenik's originality and degree of daring in proposing this book, and I find his idea of making Darwin's work more accessible to people inspiring. Pechenik's writing is lucid, his reorganization of sentences and paragraphs is done with much thought and care, and he is clearly delivering on his vision." --Adi Livnat, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Table of Contents

    Preface, Jan A. Pechenik
    Chapter 1. Variation under Domestication
    Chapter 2. Variation under Nature
    Chapter 3. Struggle for Existence
    Chapter 4. Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest
    Chapter 5. Laws of Variation
    Chapter 6. Difficulties of the Theory
    Chapter 7. Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection
    Chapter 8. Instinct

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