Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History

Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History

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by Stephen Jay Gould
     
 

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"There is no scientist today whose books I look forward to reading with greater anticipation of enjoyment and enlightenment than Stephen Jay Gould."—Martin Gardner

Among scientists who write, no one illuminates as well as Stephen Jay Gould doesthe wonderful workings of the natural world. Now in a new volume of collected essays—his sixth since

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Overview

"There is no scientist today whose books I look forward to reading with greater anticipation of enjoyment and enlightenment than Stephen Jay Gould."—Martin Gardner

Among scientists who write, no one illuminates as well as Stephen Jay Gould doesthe wonderful workings of the natural world. Now in a new volume of collected essays—his sixth since Ever Since Darwin—Gould speaks of the importance of unbroken connections within our own lives and to our ancestralgenerations. Along with way, he opens to us the mysteries of fish tails, frog calls, and other matters, and shows once and for all why we must take notice when a seemingly insignificant creature is threatened, like the land snail Partula from Moorea, whose extinction he movingly relates.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his latest collection of essays originally published in Natural History magazine, paleontologist Gould examines diverse and diverting topics. The title piece refers to toes, and we learn that five is not necessarily the optimum number. Gould re-examines the work of astronomer Edmund Halley and 16th-century Irish Archbishop James Ussher, who pinpointed the moment of creation (Oct. 23, 4004 B.C.); Gould finds an ``invisible hand'' connecting William Paley, Charles Darwin and Adam Smith. His recollection of an incident in his childhood leads to a discussion of selective memory. Other topics are the extinction of land snails on Moorea, development of the tiny bones of the ear, romanticism about the past and Gould's own ecological ``Golden Rule'' for our planet. He writes about the threatened red squirrel of Arizona and the ``evolution'' of old tires into sandals. This collection, easily equal to The Panda's Thumb and Bully for Brontosaurus , will not disappoint Gould's fans. Illustrations. BOMC, QPB and History Book Club selections. (Jan.)
Library Journal
With expected wit, insight, and erudition, Harvard geopaleontologist Stephen Jay Gould ( Bully for Brontosaurus , LJ 5/15/91) has written 31 engaging essays on the disparate but related issues of time, change, and organic evolution. Gould critically explores a cascade of ideas that shed new light on ecology, human nature, vertebrate anatomy, neo-Darwinism, and mass extinctions; he even includes personal musings. Of special interest are the essays that deal with William Paley's natural theology, Archbishop James Ussher's biblical chronology, Miocene fossil apes, the Darwinian interpretation of life's struggle for existence, and a reexamination of the Cambrian onychophoran Hallucigenia . Gould respects the scientific quest but has disdain for human intolerance. His own model of organic evolution permeates these analyses (see Wonderful Life , LJ 9/1/89). Rich in thoughts and perspectives, Eight Little Piggies is recommended for all academic and public libraries. BOMC, Quality Paperback Book Club, and History Book Club selections.-- H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Stuart Whitwell
No reader of Gould's monthly column in "Natural History" is ever completely surprised by the occasional collection of these columns in book form. Yet seeing them side by side does alter them slightly: their reach seems broader, their reflection deeper, their humanism more compelling. Their humanism? Isn't Gould chiefly concerned with snails (his area of specialization) and the refinement of Darwinian thought? He is, of course, but at the same time he is also a wonderful illustrator of the humanism that lies behind the best and most important work in science. This seems to be more and more the case now that the dazzle of "The Panda's Thumb" and "The Flamingo's Smile" are behind him. The 31 "musings" of the current collection patiently work at the way we think, the way we interpret, and the way we place ourselves in the vast world Darwin and others have opened up. And though their subjects seem to range widely--from the problem of memory through the elimination of species to the iconographic history of biology's classic texts--these essays also seem very much of a piece. The picture they paint--of a good-natured but somewhat arrogant species, determined to see itself as the apex of nature's work--is so wholly without sentiment, so wholly devoid of special pleading, and so straightforwardly honest, that one is put in mind of Bacon, Montaigne, Darwin, and other great careful and modest thinkers of the past. Gould would blush at these comparisons and deny them. But the resonance of these thoughtful essays allows them to transcend their subject. They should be required reading for everyone, especially those whose interests lie outside the field of science. Dante, Shakespeare, and Aristotle would be proud to see this work placed on the shelf beside their own.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393340846
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/29/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
1,272,709
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 10, 1941
Date of Death:
May 20, 2002
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Place of Death:
Boston, Massachusetts
Education:
B.S., Antioch College, 1963; Ph.D., Columbia University, 1967

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