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Richards’s Tragic Sense of Life earns high praise

Robert J. Richards‘s most recent book, The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought, has been met with rave reviews in American Scientist and the Times Literary Supplement. The book traces the life of Ernst Haeckel, a contemporary of Darwin whose quality of research was matched by his efforts to popularize the concept of natural selection.

American Scientist says of Richards’s work:

This book marks a major rehabilitation of Haeckel as a mainstream Darwinian, and a full-blooded one at that. It writes Germany into the larger story of the international development of Darwinism in a new way, and it injects welcome doses of drama, romance and natural beauty into the story.

The Times agrees:

The Tragic Sense of Life is an immensely impressive work of biography and intellectual history, and a fitting testament to a complex and contradictory character, a “polymorphic scientist-artist-adventurer”. Richards succeeds brilliantly in re-establishing Haeckel as a significant scientist and a major figure in the history of evolutionary thought.

Robert J. Richards is the Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine. His previous book was The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe.

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