“Darwin has gifted us with an account of life whose depth, beauty, and pathos—when seen in the context of the larger cosmic epic of evolution—exposes us afresh to the raw reality of the sacred
and to a resoundingly meaningful universe.”
by Glen Herbert
Charles Darwin is the father of natural selection, but he was also the father of ten children, eight of whom survived infancy. Three of his surviving sons were knighted, and the fourth was no slouch either. They all succeeded in science and flourished in life, and given what we know about the kind of father that Darwin was — devoted, attentive, patient, caring, giving — much of their success was a result of the kind of man that Darwin was.
Still, for all of the knighthoods, the accolades, the important work and kind deeds, there is no greater testament to the life of the father and his children than what you would see were you to go to the library at the Unversity of Cambridge and ask to see Darwin’s draft for “On the Origin of Species.” It was a monumental work in ways that other monumental works would have a hard time even approaching. It was a statement of a view of life that Darwin was, in a sense, the first to see. It would be controversial, he knew, which is why it took him so long to write and which encouraged him to be so careful and clear in writing it. You can see evidence of all of those things in the draft.
But then, on the blank pages at the beginning and the end, the blank leaves between sections, you’ll see this: doodles. Lots and lots of doodles. They are the drawings his children made on the papers that their daddy brought home, as it were, from work. There are hundreds of them. Where other fathers may have kept this kind of thing away from the children, or reprimanded them for fouling his papers, it’s clear that Darwin either didn’t mind, or was even charmed by the drawings his children made there.
It’s easy for us to be charmed by them too. They’re charming in every way. Kids, just being kids, present in the life of their father as he toiled on a scientific work that would forever change the way we see life on earth. These doodles will follow the manuscripts and the drafts forever, too, and whenever academics approach them, they’ll see an important work and the beginning of an important scientific legacy. They’ll also see the battle of the carrots, a puppy dog, some butterflies. With any luck at all, they’ll then go home and doodle with their kids, too. Fingers crossed.