Thursday 23 April 2009

The Life and Times of Charles Drawin

Whilst sorting out our bookshelf, as only the terminally bored do, I discovered a book I'd not noticed previously. Judging by its dog-eared appearance, it must have been handed down from father to son for several generations, each new custodian cherishing it like a precious jewel, until I absent-mindedly filed it away between Haynes' Land Rover Discovery '89 to '98 (G to S reg) and Nicholas Mason's Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd.

It was entitled The Life and Times of Charles Drawin and is a posthumous autobiography by the great man himself. I have spent a day or two reading the hallowed pages, absorbing their message and appreciating the implications contained therein.

This incredibly-gifted and far-sighted man has single-handedly shaped the way we think of the world today. His 1839 biography of Lieutenant William Bligh, especially the chapter concerning the journey of HMS Bounty taking breadfruit to the Americas, The Voyage of The Bagel, is simply spellbinding. Crumbs, no wonder he was the toast of the Victorian science scene, for he was no duff nut.

I must admit, I wasn't so entirely convinced by his Earth parable of 1859. Here, he describes a crease in the fabric of Space/Time that causes so much intense heat and pressure across the world that water is instantly vapourised into steam and all life is squashed flat. There are eerie fore-shadowings and essences of Einstein, climate change and Pratchett to be found here, which make it a required read, but I felt that the title, On the Ironing of Species, was a little contrived. Apparently it went down rather well with the religious lobby, as many Churches and faiths appreciate crisply-pressed linen, so it all starts to make sense.

His later work, too, certainly has resonances for the Modern Day. Take, for example, the 1871 pamphlet, The Scent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, which neatly encapsulates many of the theories put forward by late 20th C and early 21st C thinkers, as regards male grooming. I'm talking here of the Unnatural Selection schools of thought on either side of the English Channel, notably Monsieur David Ginola at L'Ecole Polytechnique De L'Oréal and Professor Beckham FRS MUFC from the David Beckham Academy in London.

And so, dear reader, this evening when you pour your alcoholic beverage of choice, I implore you to pause a while, raise your glass and ponder on the brilliance of Charles Drawin, without whom, our slice of existence would be unbuttered and all the poorer for it.

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