The Book of Life

Front Cover
Stephen Jay Gould
W. W. Norton & Company, 2001 - Science - 256 pages
3 Reviews
The Book of Life uses an exemplary fusion of art and science to tell the story of life on earth. The text, under the editorship of Stephen Jay Gould, provides a thorough understanding of the latest research and is accompanied by paintings prepared especially for this book. Never before has our planet's evolution been so clearly, so ingeniously explained. History is marked by disaster. The Book of Lifeexplains how mammals, having survived at least one of these disasters--the impact of a massive comet--luckily inherited the earth. Next came the rise of modern humans, who would shape the world as no creature has. As this fascinating history unfolds, gorgeous illustrations allow us to observe climate changes, tectonic plate movement, the spread of plant life, and the death of the dinosaurs. We discover the chains of animal survival, the causes and consequences of adaptation, and finally the environmental impact of human life.

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The book of life

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It is hard to know just what to make of this book. On one hand, the inclusion of dozens of striking color paintings and an introductory essay by Stephen Jay Gould on the history of iconography in the ... Read full review

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Stephen Jay Gould was perhaps one of the greatest minds in modern science, and I regret that he passed. To attest to this, and his humanity, I recommend that anyone, even those who are not interested in cancer research, stories or statistics, read "The Median Isn't the Message." He was an inspirational individual.
The Book of Life is an incredibly comprehensive, clearly written and beautifully illustrated introduction to several fields: biology, paleontology, evolution, and so on. Gould lays out the basics and the interests of nearly every facet of life on earth, and in doing so gives solid explanation to the Earth's diversity and our place in it as human beings. It is impossible to conceive on your own the vast effects we have as a species on the entire planet, both good and bad.
I wish I had been given this instead of the vast number of biology textbooks I've had to painstakingly sift through since the beginning of my educational experience. This really would've encompassed most of everything (in terms of biology) I've been taught, and with a much higher likelihood of me retaining it.
Great read, 5 stars, and will be reading much more of Gould's work from now on.


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About the author (2001)

Born in New York City in 1941, Stephen Jay Gould received his B.A. from Antioch College in New York in 1963 and a Ph.D. in paleontology from Columbia University in 1967. Gould spent most of his career as a professor at Harvard University and curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. His research was mainly in the evolution and speciation of land snails. Gould was a leading proponent of the theory of punctuated equilibrium. This theory holds that few evolutionary changes occur among organisms over long periods of time, and then a brief period of rapid changes occurs before another long, stable period of equilibrium sets in. Gould also made significant contributions to the field of evolutionary developmental biology, most notably in his work, Ontogeny and Phylogeny. An outspoken advocate of the scientific outlook, Gould had been a vigorous defender of evolution against its creation-science opponents in popular magazines focusing on science. He wrote a column for Natural History and has produced a remarkable series of books that display the excitement of science for the layperson. Among his many awards and honors, Gould won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His titles include; Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory and Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin. Stephen Jay Gould died on May 20, 2002, following his second bout with cancer.

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