Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) was the single most important European or American nineteenth-century statement that man is an integral part of the animal kingdom. As a work of science, Descent of Man mattered more, and was more coherent, rigorous, and in tune with scientific opinion than that of any of its predecessors in evolutionary theory.
Darwin’s “Man book” was a bigger immediate success than any of his other books, including the epochal Origin of Species (1859), and it was soon translated into numerous languages. Darwin wrote with engaging literary style, charming modesty, brilliant argument, and a discursive method of proof, making the book an exhilarating romp through the Earth’s known natural history and our own history as well as contemporary scientists knew it.
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