Sunday, 30 November 2008

Something very interesting that I did not know

The fascinating Janet Browne recently gave a talk at a conference on my hero Charles Darwin (Understanding Darwin: The legacy of evolution). Her talk was titled Charles Darwin and the Natural Economy of Households and is reported on Pharyngula.

Browne related a story about a questionnaire Francis Galton had sent to prominent people of the time. One question asked the respondents to list their special talents. Darwin's answer was that he had none....except for business! Forst and foremost, he regarded himself as a successful businessman and this turns out to be true. Although he was moderately wealthy by birth, by death he had amassed a fortune of £282k, which made him the equivalent of a modern multi-millionaire.

I had considered myself as someone who knew a reasonable amount about Darwin (I've read a few biographies) so I was delighted to find out that I didn't know nearly as much as I thought. It is also pleasing to think of Darwin's quiet, respectable business success alongside his quiet, respectable, devastatingly insightful and profoundly important scientific work. Browne argued that his meticulous business habits were put to good use in his science and they shared much in character.

It's an interesting story and worthwhile thing to know about a great man.

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