Originally a trip to burnish the institution's reputation, the voyage became the organization's lifeline when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed virtually all of its holdings; the eight men learned halfway through their expedition that their work would help start the museum from scratch. James weaves the personal histories of the men with that of the Academy, and of course the work of Darwin, showing how two visits to the Galapagos had unexpected reverberations in science and culture.
By shedding light on the latter visit, James reveals the riveting story of a museum recuperating from disaster, and of science at the dawn of the 20th century. For a book that has "The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin" as a subtitle, however, it doesn't do a good job of explaining that vindication. Still, for those looking for an interesting take on the history of science, Collecting Evolution is a good pick. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.