The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

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Overview

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory.  For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.

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The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

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Overview

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory.  For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.

In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself.  The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould.

On a remote outpost of the Galapagos, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent 20 years measuring the beaks of generations of finches--to prove that Darwin did not know the strength of this own theory. "Spark(s) not just the intellect, but the imagination."--Washington Post Book World. 50 illustrations. Map.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is an extraordinary achievement. It is carefully researched, impeccably crafted, unflinchingly dramatic, yet conscientiously scientific."—School Library Journal

"[An] engaging narrative of a modern scientific study that will forever change the way that we view evolution....This is a rare book: The Beak of the Finch is at once absorbing science history, deftly crafted popular science treatise and engagingly personal narrative....It has an important story to tell, not only of Darwin's finches and evolution but also of the way that forefront scientific research is carried out."—The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Evocative writing, exhaustive research, and Weiner's memorable portrait of the engaging Grants assure The Beak of the Finch membership in the select pantheon of science books that spark not just the intellect, but the imagination."—Washington Post Book World

"A brilliant book. It is the best book on life and evolution in many a long year—one of those rare books that permanently alters one's view of nature and even of life and death."—Richard Preston

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Weiner follows scientists Peter and Rosemary Grant who, for the past 20 years, have studied the continuing evolution of the beaks of finches in the Galapagos Islands. (June)
Library Journal
This is an account of Peter and Rosemary Grant's research on the microevolutionary modifications that occur in finch beaks as they adapt to environmental changes. Analysis of data collected from 18,000 birds on a Galpagos island over 21 years conclusively demonstrates that the pressures of natural selection are currently altering wild populations. Also, by incorporating others' work on present-day evolutionary variations in fish, insects, and microbes, Weiner (The Next One Hundred Years, LJ 2/1/90) challenges the concept of evolution as a time-frozen process. Harmonized with the writings of Charles Darwin, this book provides the facts to bring alive evolution as an ongoing process. Highly recommended for general collections, but informed readers would do better with Peter Grant's own Ecology and Evolution of Darwin's Finches (Princeton Univ. Pr., 1986).-Frank Reiser, Nassau Community Coll., Garden City, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679733379
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1995
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 109,668
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 5.14 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Weiner is one of the most distinguished popular-science writers in the country: his books have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Slate, Time, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Scientific American, Smithsonian, and many other newspapers and magazines, and he is a former editor at The Sciences. He is the author of The Beak of the Finch; Time, Love, Memory; Long for This World; His Brother's Keeper; The Next One Hundred Years; and Planet Earth. He lives in New York, where he teaches science writing at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    This is a well written book but as it says in its overview, it i

    This is a well written book but as it says in its overview, it is the story of two Princeton University scientists studying evolution. I think it should be classified as fiction. Unfortunately it fails to address that the “evidence of evolution”, increased beak size following a drought, returned to normal as the rains returned. There was no net long term change in morphology thus no evidence of evolution. In fact research shows that 2 species are actually interbreeding which will lead to convergence of these 2 species, the opposite of evolution. I try to find research that can address some serious concerns I have about evolution such as how low energy carbon compounds can magically form protein or how genetic mutation can lead to evolution rather than cancer. I’m not finding it so I am taking creationism a lot more seriously. This book wasn’t really accurate in its presentation or evidence of evolution.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    I have been assigned this book over my SPRING BREAK for my AP Bio class.... I read the first couple of chapters and its interesting in some way, but i wouldn't recommend it to people who are not interested in science...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2006

    On the Contrary, It's a Little Fuzzy for Scientists

    I beg to differ with the folks who said this book was 'filled with statistics' or too scientifically-written. This is a good narrative about a scientific undertaking, and reading it as a scientist, I think it borderlines as a little too flaky in parts. Overall, I really enjoyed the read--it gave you all the gory details about how it must have felt to be Peter Grant working in the Galapagos Islands.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2006

    boring

    it was sooo dull it felt like a book full of statistics. so uninteresting

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2004

    A Fabulous Book

    This is one of the best popular science books ever written. It is also a beautiful piece of literature and deserved The Pulitzer Prize it received. Bravo to Jonathan Weiner!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2003

    evil

    i had to read this book for my apes course, and i fell asleep reading it. it may be filled with lots of factual, interesting points, but it presents them in a highly scientific, and overall boring manner. if it was less scientific without the extreme details, it would be a much better book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2001

    Opening your view on the world

    As a freshman in high school, my youth group at church began a discussion on evolution and creationism. Suddenly, I was worried. It seemed I could not be a Christian and believe in evolution. I spoke to my biology teacher and he offered his copy of 'The Beak of the Finch'. At first, I wondered if I was getting over my head, but I decided to read it and I sure am glad I did. It opened my mind up, learning of Darwin's predicament, and even his own reactions to his own findings, in a still heavily creationistic world. I recomend this to any one, who wants to learn more of evolution or just for a good read- however, it may not be for those who are uninterested in science.

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