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Six Legs Better: A Cultural History of Myrmecology

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Overview

Ants long have fascinated linguists, human sociologists, and even cyberneticians. At the end of the nineteenth century, ants seemed to be admirable models for human life and were praised for their work ethic, communitarianism, and apparent empathy. They provided a natural-theological lesson on the relative importance of humans within creation and inspired psychologists to investigate the question of instinct and its place in the life of higher animals and humans. By the 1930s, however, ants came to symbolize one ...

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Overview

Ants long have fascinated linguists, human sociologists, and even cyberneticians. At the end of the nineteenth century, ants seemed to be admirable models for human life and were praised for their work ethic, communitarianism, and apparent empathy. They provided a natural-theological lesson on the relative importance of humans within creation and inspired psychologists to investigate the question of instinct and its place in the life of higher animals and humans. By the 1930s, however, ants came to symbolize one of modernity's deepest fears: the loss of selfhood. Researchers then viewed the ant colony as an unthinking mass, easily ruled and slavishly organized.

In this volume, Charlotte Sleigh uses specific representations of ants within the field of entomology from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries to explore the broader role of metaphors in science and their often unpredictable translations. Marking the centenary of the coining of "myrmecology" to describe the study of ants, Six Legs Better demonstrates the remarkable historical role played by ants as a node where notions of animal, human, and automaton intersect.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

American Scientist
A lively and erudite storyteller, Sleigh vividly portrays the fluidity between scientific genres and between the sciences and the humanities... reading the book is like peering into an ant farm to watch the construction of an intricate and complex nest.

— Anna Lena Phillips

Times Literary Supplement
A provocative, complex account of a multifaceted period of cultural history. There is material here that will lead to a great deal of reflection by historians and scientists alike.

— Matthew Cobb

Quarterly Review of Biology
Impressive for its depth and detail.

— Bernd Heinrich

British Journal of Entomology and Natural History
interesting and readable.

— Graham W. Elmes

RedOrbit News
Rich with information... I recommend this book.

— Andrew Suarez

Bioscience
Sleigh provides great insight... I recommend this book.

— Andrew V. Suarez

British Journal for the History of Science
Her book as a whole is a treasure of insights about science and metaphor.

— Richard W. Burkhardt

The British Society for Literature and Science
Certainly, Sleigh's book provides an excellent resource for understanding the background of the historical connections between the study of ants and the study of humanity.

— Janine Rogers

Myrmecological News
In an elegant writing style... she draws upon an impressive body of material.

— Assoc. Prof. Jes S. Pedersen

Anthrozoos
The scholarship will form an excellent starting point for all future studies in this area.

— Eric C. Brown

American Scientist - Anna Lena Phillips
A lively and erudite storyteller, Sleigh vividly portrays the fluidity between scientific genres and between the sciences and the humanities... reading the book is like peering into an ant farm to watch the construction of an intricate and complex nest.
Times Literary Supplement - Matthew Cobb
A provocative, complex account of a multifaceted period of cultural history. There is material here that will lead to a great deal of reflection by historians and scientists alike.
Quarterly Review of Biology - Bernd Heinrich
Impressive for its depth and detail.
British Journal of Entomology and Natural History - Graham W. Elmes
interesting and readable.
Anthrozoos - Eric C. Brown
The scholarship will form an excellent starting point for all future studies in this area.
RedOrbit News - Andrew Suarez
Rich with information... I recommend this book.
Bioscience - Andrew V. Suarez
Sleigh provides great insight... I recommend this book.
British Journal for the History of Science - Richard W. Burkhardt
Her book as a whole is a treasure of insights about science and metaphor.
The British Society for Literature and Science - Janine Rogers
Certainly, Sleigh's book provides an excellent resource for understanding the background of the historical connections between the study of ants and the study of humanity.
Myrmecological News - Assoc. Prof. Jes S. Pedersen
In an elegant writing style... she draws upon an impressive body of material.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801884450
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Series: Animals, History, Culture
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlotte Sleigh is a senior lecturer at the Centre for History and Cultural Studies of Science, University of Kent.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     vii
Introduction     1
Psychological Ants     21
Evolutionary Myrmecology and the Natural History of the Human Mind     23
A (Non-) Disciplinary Context for Evolutionary Myrmecology     38
Sociological Ants     63
From Psychology to Sociology     65
The Brave New World of Myrmecology     82
The Generic Contexts of Natural History     96
Writing Elite Natural History     119
Ants in the Library: An Interlude     139
Communicational Ants     163
The Macy Meanings of Meaning     167
From Pheromones to Sociobiology     190
Conclusion     219
Notes     231
Essay on Sources     287
Index     295
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting Cultural History

    In this book Sleigh further pursues ant as a metaphor, model, and starting point for considerations in human thinking. Here she focuses more specifically on science giving historical accounts of the development of the study and thoughts about ants from important entomologists and myrmecologists.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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