Elizabeth Janet Browne (née Bell, born 30 March 1950) is a British historian of science, specializing in the history of 19th-century biology. She is known for her 2-volume biography of Charles Darwin. Jonathan Cape published volume 1 in 1995 and volume 2 in 2002. Volume 2 won the 2003 James Tait Black Memorial Prize in biography.


  • The great majority of British naturalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in fact considered foreign organisms much more exciting and interesting than those found at home. This is not to say that local natural history suffered: David Allen's important book describing the Naturalist in Britain indicates the wealth of popular interest in animals and plants and the depth of knowledge relating to British organisms ... Yet the inexhaustible lure of travel and the anticipated pleasures of foreign lands, both mental, moral, and physical, were important components in the history of this subject. Excitement, change, and the thrill of difference were integral emotional factors in the growth of British interest in biogeographical topics—indeed crucial as the relaxed aura of eighteenth-century social life metamorphosed into a strait-laced Victorian era.
    Nevertheless, a love for natural history and a desire to travel were in no way sufficient reasons to account for the increase of overseas activitiy among naturalists.
    Far more significant was the hierarchical structure of British society and expansionist national ethos.
    • (1992). "A science of empire: British biogeography before Darwin". Revue d'histoire des sciences 45 (4): 453–475. DOI:10.3406/rhs.1992.4244. (quote from p. 456)
  • Darwin was a traveler, a family man, a thinker, a much-loved husband, father, friend, and neighbor—a likeable and genial figure, as expressive in his letters as he must have been in life. Although his theories were first conceived in the smoky atmosphere of London, just after his return from the Beagle in 1836, his major books and articles were all researched and constructed in the domestic setting of his home at Down House in Kent. There he lived for 40 years with his wife Emma Wedgwood and 10 children, of whom only seven survived to adulthood. The house still exists and is now a museum restored to show how it was in Darwin’s time. It is an inspiring place to visit, quiet and rural, and one can almost imagine Darwin stepping in through a doorway. Visitors used to record how he would greet them with an outstretched hand.

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