Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not Darwin's best book, but his last book

As part of the decades challenge, I read Charles Darwin's final book, The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms with observations of their habits. If you are thinking that there is NO WAY a book with a title like that could be disappointing, I'm afraid you are wrong. This book was boring. At times, it was excruciatingly so. Making matters much worse was the fact that the copy of the book I got had none of the figures. There were supposed to be 20 or so photographs of fun stuff like worm castings and excavations of roman ruins that worms had some influence upon, etc., but none were in my copy, which by-the-by was published by and purchased through If you really want this book, the figures would be essential.
Darwin was ever the scientist. He fed worms in pots different garden veggies to determine their favorites (I won't tell you the results...wouldn't want to ruin your read), and calculated the amount of soil eroded per acre per year by worms by measuring the amount of soil (castings) they bring up to the surface that will be washed away through surface runoff. He had an attention to minute detail to say the least. I remember from my visit to his home that he had large rocks placed in his backyard so he could calculate how fast the action of worms would "sink" the rock. The man did not do half assed science ever. When he tackled a problem like worms, he tackled it full bore. I totally respect that. But it doesn't always make exciting reading and now I'm somewhat scared to tackle his book about the various contrivances of orchids to ensure pollination by insects. But I'll definitely read "On the origin of species" again. That was a great book, as was "The voyage of the beagle". So enjoy your Darwin, but make a wise choice.


Debi said...

Frankly, I'm thinking not even the figures could have saved that one!

Debi said...

That book sounds boring. How did you stay awake?