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Lincoln and Darwin

Lincoln and Darwin

Shared Visions of Race, Science, and Religion

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James Lander


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
6 x 9, 15 illustrations


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About the Book

Born on the same day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were true contemporaries.  Though shaped by vastly different environments, they had remarkably similar values, purposes, and approaches. In this exciting new study, James Lander places these two iconic men side by side and reveals the parallel views they shared of man and God.

While Lincoln is renowned for his oratorical prowess and for the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as many other accomplishments, his scientific and technological interests are not widely recognized; for example, many Americans do not know that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to obtain a patent. Darwin, on the other hand, is celebrated for his scientific achievements but not for his passionate commitment to the abolition of slavery, which in part drove his research in evolution. Both men took great pains to avoid causing unnecessary offense despite having abandoned traditional Christianity. Each had one main adversary who endorsed scientific racism: Lincoln had Stephen A. Douglas, and Darwin had Louis Agassiz.

With graceful and sophisticated writing, Lander expands on these commonalities and uncovers more shared connections to people, politics, and events. He traces how these two intellectual giants came to hold remarkably similar perspectives on the evils of racism, the value of science, and the uncertainties of conventional religion.

Separated by an ocean but joined in their ideas, Lincoln and Darwin acted as trailblazers, leading their societies toward greater freedom of thought and a greater acceptance of human equality. This fascinating biographical examination brings the mid-nineteenth-century discourse about race, science, and humanitarian sensibility to the forefront using the mutual interests and pursuits of these two historic figures.


James Lander teaches history at TASIS American School in England. He is the author of Roman Stone Fortifications: Variation and Change from the First Century A.D. to the Fourth and Peter Labilliere: The Man Buried Upside Down on Box Hill.


"Since such different communities of scholars have examined the book’s two subjects, there has been very little work that directly engages the shared histories and contexts of these two men. Despite these challenges, the result is quite engaging because it allows Lander to bring into focus broad questions about the relationship between individuals and their contexts as well as some specific questions about mid-nineteenth-century Western thought."—Mark LargentHistory of Science Society

“A superbly sympathetic discussion of the core beliefs of two of the greatest minds of the nineteenth century, linked in their fight against the twin monsters of scientific racism and religious bigotry. In lucid prose and copious historical detail, Lander uses Darwin to shed light on Lincoln and Lincoln to shed light on Darwin. As Lander demonstrates, their humanity and intelligence shine forth even more brightly when seen in juxtaposition. A compelling book.”—Christoph Irmscher, author of The Poetics of Natural History  

“Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln had more in common than their birth on the same day. Both abhorred slavery, and their positions on race shared significant similarities. This stimulating book offers new insights on these two nineteenth-century giants whose legacy still shapes our world today.”—James M. McPherson, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

Lincoln and Darwin is a seamless parallel examination of two great men whose complementary ideas changed the trajectory of human thought and fundamentally altered the course of history. This is an impressive book: accessible and readable, and yet so thoughtful and penetrating as to compel the reader periodically to close the cover and think about what it says.”—Jason Emerson, author of Lincoln the Inventor