Patent debunks several commonly held beliefs about Darwin as she explores the life of the young man, "ill suited to education," who would turn the world of science upside down. A poor student, Darwin preferred hunting to scholarship, and he drifted from medicine to the clergy in search of a suitable career. He satisfied his personal curiosity by taking geology and botany courses, and it was a geology connection that led him to board the Beagle. Patent recounts his momentous four-year journey, noting that it was not some epiphany in the Galapagos that led to his theory of natural selection. Rather, he came to it slowly, after returning home and applying other scientists' ideas about biological adaptation to his firsthand observations. Throughout, the author balances the man as scientist with the man as devoted husband and father, building a blended portrait of an individual who let his observations shape his beliefs instead of the other way around. Numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations add visual appeal, and a chronology, a map, notes, and a glossary are appended.