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The evolution of genius

According to Adam Gopnik, Lincoln and Darwin shared not only a birthday but also a linguistic gift central to their greatness. Are words really so powerful?

By Gillian Beer   September 2009

Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life By Adam Gopnik (Quercus, £16.99)

Two men, born on the same day in different countries and circumstances: one a public figure and perforce a military leader, the other a natural historian brooding towards a theory that transformed thinking. Is there any significance to be found in their near-simultaneous births?

This present year, in which both Darwin and Lincoln are celebrated 200 years after 12th February 1809, has certainly tempted historians to seek out connections and counterfactuals. And it has also provoked Adam Gopnik to seek out their…

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