“There is Grandeur in this View of Life”

Darwin’s influence reached many corners of the world, even within his lifetime. Here are several examples of his impact on upstate New York and Cornell.

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” (Origin, p. 490)
Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell. Studies in General Science. New York: G.P. Putnam and Son, 1869.

Antoinette Louisa Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) was born in Henrietta, N.Y., south of Rochester. Blackwell’s book on science included several quotations from Darwin. When Darwin thanked her for sending the book to him, he noted that she quoted unusual passages not generally noticed. Blackwell was also notable for being the first American woman ordained as a minister (of the First Congregational Church, South Butler, N.Y., in 1853).

John Henry Comstock. Lecture handout.

John Henry Comstock (1849-1931) arrived at Cornell as a freshman in 1870. He became a laboratory assistant to the zoologist Burt Green Wilder. Later, as a Cornell professor of natural history, he distributed these notes to those attending his public lectures on evolution given in the 1880s.

James Orton,. The Andes and the Amazon; or, Across the Continent of South America. New York: Harper, circa 1875. Third edition.

Theologian and explorer James Orton (1830-1877), a professor of natural history at Vassar College, dedicated this book to Darwin, and modeled it after Darwin’s Journal of Researches from the Beagle voyage. Born in Seneca Falls, N.Y., Orton made expeditions to South America which confirmed the marine origin of Andean fossils.

Members of the Darwin family, circa 1865.

From left to right: Leonard, Henrietta, Horace, Emma, Elizabeth, Francis, and unidentified visitor.

Almost all of Darwin’s children, as well as his adored dogs, played a role in his research.

Original held by the Cambridge University Library.

Down House servants, 1878.

It should not be forgotten that Darwin’s life and work relied on a large staff at Down House. One gardener in particular, Henry Lettington, proved indispensable in helping with botanical experiments.

Original held by the Cambridge University Library.

Roberto Bertoia. Wax sculpture of Charles Darwin. 2009 casting.

Courtesy of the sculptor.

Charles Darwin, 1868.

While spending a two-month holiday at the Isle of Wight, Darwin and his family stayed at the lodgings of the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who photographed Darwin, as well as some of his family and visiting friends.

On loan courtesy of Stephan Loewentheil and The 19th Century Shop, Baltimore, Maryland.

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