Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Charles and Emma

A mountain of information has been written about Charles Darwin’s life, ideas and adventures, but this may be the first book about his romance with Emma Wedgwood. The dilemma? Emma was staunchly religious while Charles was bound to science and his revolutionary idea of the origin of species. Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman, examines the true story of their courtship, marriage and family life as a backdrop to Darwin’s famous discoveries.

Faced with the question of whether or not to marry, Darwin, ever the scientist, compiled a list – a wife, he wrote, is “better than a dog” but then again he’d have “less money for books.” Eventually, Darwin did decide to marry Emma and the couple spent many happy years together.

Through journal entries and letters from the day, Heiligman’s well-researched book draws an accurate picture of 19th-century society and Darwin’s scientific research. But more than that, she brings to life the people and events of Darwin’s time – the suffering they experienced at the death of their beloved child, Darwin’s anxiety over publishing his original theories, and the strong affection and respect that Darwin and Emma had for each other despite their differing viewpoints.

Interestingly, author Deborah Heiligman majored in religious studies and then married a man of science, Jonathan Weiner, author of The Beak of the Finch, which documents the evolution of Darwin's Galapagos finches. Honored with several prominent awards, Charles and Emma is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for readers of all ages.