On the Origin of Species was built upon the young Charles Darwin’s observations of the natural world when he circumnavigated the globe as a “gentleman naturalist” on the HMS Beagle. But work on his masterpiece did not begin until five years after his return when he moved into Down House with his family in Kent, England, where he would live for the rest of his life.
For almost twenty years, the garden at Down House was both an inspiration and a laboratory to Darwin. In the orchard, he conducted experiments on pollination. He built a dovecote where he could breed new strains of pigeons that helped him understand the intricacies of generation. On his daily walk along the sandbank, he observed how plants competed for survival. In solitude, he also struggled with the ideas of evolution that had haunted him since his voyage.
Bringing Darwin’s garden to the present day, Michael Boulter unfolds a shining portrait of the formation of one of England’s greatest thinkers and his relationship with the place he loved, and shows how his experiments—conducted more than 150 years ago—are still revealing new proofs as we continue to search for the origins of life.