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27 janvier 2009 2 27 /01 /janvier /2009 00:00
L'Autobiographie, extraits.


Towards the close of my school life, my brother worked hard at chemistry and made a fair laboratory with proper apparatus in the tool-house in the garden, and I was allowed to aid him as a servant in most of his experiments. He made all the gases and many compounds, and I read with care several books on chemistry, such as Henry and Parkes' Chemical Catechism. The subject interested me greatly, and we often used to go on working till rather late at night. This was the best part of my education at school, for it showed me practically the meaning of experimental science. The fact that we worked at chemistry somehow got known at school, and as it was an unprecedented fact, I was nick-named "Gas." I was also once publicly rebuked by the head-master, Dr. Butler, for thus wasting my time over such useless subjects ; and he called me very unjustly a "poco curante"1 , and as I did not understand what he meant it seemed to me a fearful reproach.

1. Un "poco curente" (un personnage blasé du Candide de Voltaire porte ce nom) s'intéresse aux détails et non aux choses importantes. La remarque est devenue célèbre à cause de son sens prémonitoire bien involontaire : c'est en s'intéressant aux petites choses, à des détails infimes, que Darwin en est venu à proposer la grandiose synthèse qui l'a rendu célèbre.

Charles Darwin at age 7, 1816 Charles Darwin in 1830


I have not as yet mentioned a circumstance which influenced my whole career more than any other. This was my friendship with Prof. Henslow. Before coming up to Cambridge, I had heard of him from my brother as a man who knew every branch of science, and I was accordingly prepared to reverence him. He kept open house once every week, where all undergraduates and several older members of the University, who were attached to science, used to meet in the evening. I soon got, through Fox, an invitation, and went there regularly. Before long I became well acquainted with Henslow, and during the latter half of my time at Cambridge took long walks with him on most days; so that I was called by some of the dons "the man who walks with Henslow".

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