Heiligman Charles and Emma:
The Darwins’ Leap of Faith Henry Holt and Company
Video from the 2009 National
Book Awards Finalist Reading
Photo credit: Matt
with Charles Darwin’s decision to “marry”
or “not marry,” Deborah Heiligman’s
dual biography brings the reader into the personal lives
of two fascinating people: Charles, a man of science,
and Emma, a woman of faith. Through meticulous research,
vibrant prose, and inspired integration of journals
and personal correspondence, Heiligman reveals how,
over a lifetime of love and loss, success and setback,
the Darwins’ religious differences evolved into
a portrait of mutual respect and devotion.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Charles Darwin published
The Origin of Species, his revolutionary treatise
on evolution, in 1859. Even today, the theory of evolution
creates tension between the scientific and religious
communities. This same debate raged within Darwin himself
and played an important part in his marriage: Emma’s
faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked
on his controversial theory.
This biography of Charles
Darwin takes a personal look at the man behind evolutionary
theory. His children doubled as scientific specimens,
and his wife’s religious convictions made him
rethink how the world would receive his ideas. What
emerges is a portrait of a brilliant man, a radical
science, and a great love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Heiligman has published
nearly thirty books on subjects ranging from bees to
babies, chromosomes to Christmas, Darwin to Diwali,
metamorphosis to mathematics, including From Caterpillar
to Butterfly, the Celebrate Holidays Around
the World series to the brand new Cool Dog,
School Dog. Charles and Emma: The Darwins’
Leap of Faith, published in January, 2009, received
five starred reviews, is on two Booklist top
ten lists, and is a finalist for the National Book Award.
Deborah enjoys speaking to teachers, librarians, and
writers, and has been doing school visits for many years.
A former editor and freelance
writer, she still occasionally writes for publications
such as The Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia
Inquirer, and on her own blog. She is married to
the author Jonathan Weiner, (The Beak of the Finch).
Formerly a Pennsylvanian, she lives in New York City.
21, 2009 – WASHINGTON, DC
2:00 – 3:30 ish pm
DC Public Library
4200 Kansas Ave NW (at Georgia)
Washington, DC 20011-7294
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23,
2009 – WASHINGTON, DC
10:30 AM – 1:00 pm
Politics & Prose Book store
5018 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Excerpt from Charles
and Emma, pages 51-52:
As Charles looked at the
beaks of the finches, he began to see evidence of
the fight for survival that precipitated the change.
He began to see that beaks adapted to the kinds of
seeds available on the island. Big beaks could crack
open big, hard seeds; small beaks were better for
hard-to-get-at seeds. This was not God’s design;
it was design brought about by the need for food.
His birds and Malthus’s theory had given him
the mechanism for the transmutation of species.
In his notebooks, Charles
began to write about his idea of how it all happened.
He thought about how traits get passed down, over
and over again. He surmised that traits that are passed
on change and adapt according to what is needed for
survival. These changes—very small ones—add
up over time to make bigger changes. These bigger
changes result in the creation of new species. He
called his idea “modification by natural selection.”
He knew he had to study his idea in minute and exacting
detail, in an organized and disciplined way. But he
now had “a theory by which to work.” Observing
Jenny, reading Malthus, thinking about the finches,
he put it all together. N
He was beyond excited. He
now knew for sure that this theory was going to be
the governing force of the rest of his life.
But what about Emma?
His theory essentially eliminated
God’s role in the process of creation. What
would Emma think? He knew he was flirting with materialism,
the philosophical doctrine that says that there are
no spiritual or divine forces in nature, only matter.
If Emma knew, would she want him to be flirting with
her? In one of his notebooks he wrote, “Oh you
materialist!” There was no denying—to
himself—what he was becoming.