Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth

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Alfred A. Knopf, 1998 - Nature - 346 pages
20 Reviews
By one of Britain's most gifted scientists: a magnificently daring and compulsively readable account of life on Earth (from the "big bang" to the advent of man), based entirely on the most original of all sources--the evidence of fossils.
With excitement and driving intelligence, Richard Fortey guides us from the barren globe spinning in space, through the very earliest signs of life in the sulphurous hot springs and volcanic vents of the young planet, the appearance of cells, the slow creation of an atmosphere and the evolution of myriad forms of plants and animals that could then be sustained, including the magnificent era of the dinosaurs, and on to the last moment before the debut of Homo sapiens.
Ranging across multiple scientific disciplines, explicating in wonderfully clear and refreshing prose their findings and arguments--about the origins of life, the causes of species extinctions and the first appearance of man--Fortey weaves this history out of the most delicate traceries left in rock, stone and earth. He also explains how, on each aspect of nature and life, scientists have reached the understanding we have today, who made the key discoveries, who their opponents were and why certain ideas won.
Brimful of wit, fascinating personal experience and high scholarship, this book may well be our best introduction yet to the complex history of life on Earth.

A Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection With 32 pages of photographs

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Review: Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth

User Review  - Andrew Brady - Goodreads

An absolutely fascinating and ambitious book, with snippets of Prof. Fortey's academic career and opinions. I detected something of a bitterness towards other areas of science - especially when he was ... Read full review

Review: Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth

User Review  - Nikki - Goodreads

This isn't my favourite of Fortey's books, possibly because I've read similar types of books by other writers before, so he isn't bringing me a new subject I don't expect to like in the same way as he ... Read full review


The Everlasting Sea
Dust to Life
Cells Tissues Bodies

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About the author (1998)

Richard Fortey is a senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. He is the author of several books, including Fossils: A Key to the Past and The Hidden Landscape, which was named the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993. In 1997 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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