We are all pebbles dropped in the sea of history, where the splash strikes one way and the big tides run another, and though what we feel is the splash, the splash takes place only within those tides. In almost every case, the incoming current drowns the splash; once in a while the drop of the pebble changes the way the ocean runs.
On February 12, 1809, two boys were born within a few hours of each other on either side of the Atlantic. One entered life in a comfortable family home, nicely called the Mount, that still stands in the leafy English countryside of Shrewsbury, Shropshire; the other opened his eyes for the first time in a nameless, long-lost log cabin in the Kentucky woods.
Charles Darwin was the fifth of six children, born into comfort but to a family that was far from "safe," with a long history of free-thinking and radical beliefs. He came into a world of learning and money—one grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, had made a fortune in ceramic plates. Abraham Lincoln was the second of three, born to a dirt-poor farmer, Thomas Lincoln, who, when he wrote his name at all, wrote it (his son recalled) "bunglingly."