This is a very quirky book about a very quirky piece of history. We all know the name Charles Darwin. We all know his theory of evolution is generally accepted to be true and that he was one of the greatest minds of all time and that his perception of the world was special. But do you know about Thomas Darwin? Have you ever heard the story of the youngest of the Darwin clan?
Thomas Darwin died in an Asylum in London Ontario at 22 years of age. Karlinsky was studying the asylum when he stumbled across this story. This novel is docu-fiction, research has gone into it and it reprints full letters of historical figures, but the documentation simply left too many holes in the story. Karlinsky has written a short and highly readable version of a short and sad life.
Thomas was a young scientist showing signs of competence and passion when he went off to university. Sadly he got side tracked applying the theories of his father where no real application can be made. Namely, he began to think very carefully about the flawed nature of human products, how if a machine makes 1000 candlesticks the variations are numerous and no to are truly the same. That was a good observation, especially for the time. however, young Thomas then proceeded to think that if objects were left alone long enough they would change. EXAMPLE: if a fork and a spoon were left one on top of the other long enough they would combine and spawn. He made many many studies of this feature of inanimate objects, all tests were of course negative but that did not convince him his theory was untrue. Anyone can see the futility of such research. There was something wrong with the mind of Thomas and so he failed to recognize the obvious and rather quickly he lost the ability to function in society. while in the hospital he quickly became ill and died.
Karlinsky weaves the tale with authority and beauty. The sadness just underneath the surface remains there as he attempts to keep the story in the funny side of things. He rights it fairly, with an even hand and compellingly. This is a very fast read that probes at the unraveling of a mind.