Darwin for Beginners

Darwin for Beginners, republished as Introducing Darwin, is a 1982 graphic study guide to Charles Darwin and Evolution written by Dr. Jonathan Miller and illustrated by Borin Van Loon.[1] The volume, according to the publisher's website, "unravels Darwin’s life and his contribution to biology, and traces the path from his scientific predecessors to the later modifications that his own evolutionary theories required."[2]

Darwin for Beginners
First hardback edition cover
AuthorJonathan Miller
IllustratorBorin Van Loon
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesFor Beginners
SubjectCharles Darwin
PublisherWriters & Readers
Pantheon Books
Icon Books
Publication date
Media typePrint

Publication historyEdit

This volume was originally published in the UK by Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative in 1982, following the collapse of this organisation in 1984, in part due to a disagreement over the selling off of the US rights to this title, the book has subsequently been republished in the US by Pantheon Books and in the UK by Icon Books.

Work on the book proved difficult at times, according to illustrator Borin Van Loon, as the schedule of the author Jonathan Miller was, "always taken up with lighting Rigoletto at the Royal Opera House or making a television series on the human body.[3]

Selected editions:

  • Darwin for Beginners. Writers & Readers. 1982. ISBN 0906495962.
  • Darwin for Beginners. Pantheon. 1990. ISBN 0679725113.
  • Darwin for Beginners. Icon Books. 1992. ISBN 1874166013.
  • Introducing Darwin and Evolution. Icon Books. 2000. ISBN 1840461535.
  • Darwin for Beginners. Pantheon. 2003. ISBN 0375714588.
  • Introducing Darwin. Icon Books. 2006. ISBN 1840467150.
  • Introducing Darwin: A Graphic Guide. Icon Books. 2008. ISBN 1848311176.

Related volumes in the For Beginners... series:

  • Rosenfield, Israel; Ziff, Edward; Van Loon, Borin (1983). DNA for Beginners. Readers & Writers.

Related volumes in the Introducing... series:


Professor David B. Richman, writing in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, described the book as, "a rather charming graphic account of Darwin's ideas."[4] Professor Richard C. Lewontin, writing in New York Review of Books, describes the book as, "a superb introduction to a very tricky subject."[5] Los Angeles Times reviewer Charles Solomon, however, dismisses it as, "a competent but by no means extraordinary biography."[6]

Professor Jon Seger, writing in New Scientist, describes the style of author Jonathan Miller, who he point out is primarily known as a TV physician, as, "that of a television documentary."[7] While Miller's text is, according to Lewontin, "historically correct, scientifically impeccable," with, "all the emphasis in the right place."[5]

Van Loon's illustrations are, according to Lewontin, "a constant reminder not to take the life of the mind more seriously than it deserves."[5] Seger describes, "the stream of rapidly changing images," as, "full of action," although at times, "pointlessly vulgar."[7]

Miller and Van Loon have, concludes Seger, "not produced a work of scholarship," but have, "brought to life an important chapter of scientific history."[7]


  1. ^ Miller, Jonathan; Van Loon, Borin (1982). Darwin for Beginners. Writers & Readers Publishing.
  2. ^ "Introducing Darwin: A Graphic Guide". Icon Books. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  3. ^ Van Loon, Borin. "Introducing Darwin: A Graphic Guide". borinvanloon.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  4. ^ Richman, David B. (September–October 2010). "Review: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species". Reports of the National Center for Science Education. 30 (5): 38–39. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  5. ^ a b c Lewontin, Richard C. (1983-06-16). "Darwin's Revolution". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  6. ^ Solomon, Charles (1990-02-25). "Darwin for Beginners". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  7. ^ a b c Seger, Jon (9 June 1983). "Sanitary and Not So Sanitary Evolution". New Scientist. 98 (1361): 719.