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Blackwell North Amer In 1846, Charles Darwin has a secret: an essay, sealed in an envelope and locked in his study drawer, which will overturn human understanding of time and nature for ever. Now he must publish and take the consequences. But he hesitates. First, Darwin decides to undertake just one final task: to solve the riddle of a tiny barnacle he picked up on the shores of southern Chile, the last of his Beagle specimens. As it turns out, he could not have made a more fateful choice. Barnacles are common to almost every shoreline in the world, but this barnacle doesn't fit established definitions. Darwin knows such aberrant creatures are often the key to understanding the processes of natural selection within a particular species. He promises himself a month or so studying this creature. But eight years later, his study filled with hundreds of barnacle specimens in labelled pillboxes posted from around the world, the case is still unclosed. Darwin's eyes are fixed to a microscope, his mind preoccupied with the evolutionary history of these bizarre sea creatures. Was Darwin hesitating? Or was he testing his 'dangerous idea' to destruction? Beautifully written and superbly told, Darwin and the Barnacle is the fascinating story of how genius sometimes proceeds through indirection - and how one small item of curiosity contributed to history's most spectacular scientific breakthrough.