Late in Life, Thoreau Became a Serious Darwinist

Longreads

Randall Fuller | The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation | Viking | January 2017 | 25 minutes (6,840 words) 

The excerpt below is adapted from The Book That Changed America, by Randall Fuller, which explores the impact of Darwin’s Origin of Species on American intellectual life. This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky

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“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Origin_of_Species_illustration_croppedDetail from the single illustration that appeared in the first edition of the Origin of Species. Via Wikimedia.

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537 plants!

With the possible exception of Asa Gray, no American read the Origin of Species with as much care and insight as Henry David Thoreau. Throughout the first week of February, he copied extracts from the

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