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

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Mar 23, 2011 - Science - 400 pages
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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

From the Hardcover edition.

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

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

The story of the creatures great and small who have graced the planet then and now, and of the scientists who have studied them, marvelously told by a senior paleontologist at London's Natural History ... Read full review

Life: a natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The diversity of Earth's evolutionary history are preserved in its stones. Fortney enlivens this broad paleontological survey with anecdotes from his own fossil-hunting expeditions. (LJ 4/1/98) Read full review


Chapter 1The Everlasting Sea
Chapter 2Dust to Life
Chapter 3Cells Tissues Bodies
Chapter 4My Animals and Other Families
Chapter 5Marine Riches
Chapter 6Landwards
Chapter 9Monstrous and Modest
Chapter 10Theories of the End
Chapter 11Suckling Success
Chapter 12Humanity
Chapter 13Wheels of Chance
Suggestions for Further Reading

Chapter 7Silent Forests Crowded Oceans
Chapter 8The Great Continent

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About the author (2011)

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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