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The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance

The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance

by Ernst Mayr
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No one in this century can speak with greater authority on the progress of ideas in biology than Ernst Mayr. And no book has ever established the life sciences so firmly in the mainstream of Western intellectual history as The Growth of Biological Thought. Ten years in preparation, this is a work of epic proportions, tracing the development of the major problems of biology from the earliest attempts to find order in the diversity of life to modern research into the mechanisms of gene transmission.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674364462
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/22/1985
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 992
Sales rank: 750,051
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Ernst Mayr was Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Crafoord Prize for Biology, the National Medal of Science, the Balzan Prize, and the Japan Prize.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: How to write history of biology

Subjectivity and bias

Why study the history of biology?

2 The place of biology in the sciences and its conceptual structure

The nature of science

Method in science

The position of biology within the sciences

How and why is biology different?

Special characteristics of living organisms

Reduction and biology


The conceptual structure of biology

A new philosophy of biology

3 The changing intellectual milieu of biology


The Christian world picture

The Renaissance

The discovery of diversity

Biology in the Enlightenment

The rise of science from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century

Divisive developments in the nineteenth century

Biology in the twentieth century

Major periods in the history of biology

Biology and philosophy

Biology today


4 Macrotaxonomy, the science of classifying


The classification of plants by the ancients and the herbalists

Downward classification by logical division

Pre-Linnaean zoologists

Carl Linnaeus


A new start in animal classification

Taxonomic characters

Upward classification by empirical grouping

Transition period (1758-1859)

Hierarchical classifications

5 Grouping according to common ancestry

The decline of macrotaxonomic research

Numerical phenetics


The traditional or evolutionary methodology

New taxonomic characters

Facilitation of information retrieval

The study of diversity

6 Microtaxonomy, the science of species

Early species concepts

The essentialist species concept

The nominalistic species concept

Darwin's species concept

The rise of the biological species concept

Applying the biological species concept to multidimensional species taxa

The significance of species in biology


7 Origins without evolution

The coming of evolutionism

The French Enlightenment

8 Evolution before Darwin




Lyell and uniformitarianism


9 Charles Darwin

Darwin and evolution

Alfred Russel Wallace

The publication of the Origin

10 Darwin's evidence for evolution and common descent

Common descent and the natural system

Common descent and geographical distribution

Morphology as evidence for evolution and common descent

Embryology as evidence for evolution and common descent

11 The causation of evolution: natural selection

The major components of the theory of natural selection

The origin of the concept of natural selection

The impact of the Darwinian revolution

The resistance to natural selection

Alternate evolutionary theories

12 Diversity and synthesis of evolutionary thought

The growing split among the evolutionists

Advances in evolutionary genetics

Advances in evolutionary systematics

The evolutionary synthesis

13 Post-synthesis developments

Molecular biology

Natural selection

Unresolved issues in natural selection

Modes of speciation


The evolution of man

Evolution in modern thought


14 Early theories and breeding experiments

Theories of inheritance among the ancients

Mendel's forerunners

15 Germ cells, vehicles of heredity

The Schwann-Schleiden cell theory

The meaning of sex and fertilization

Chromosomes and their role

16 The nature of inheritance

Darwin and variation

August Weismann

Hugo de Vries

Gregor Mendel

17 The flowering of Mendelian genetics

The rediscoverers of Mendel

The classical period of Mendelian genetics

The origin of new variation (mutation)

The emergence of modern genetics

The Sutton-Boveri chromosome theory

Sex determination

Morgan and the fly room


Morgan and the chromosome theory

18 Theories of the gene

Competing theories of inheritance

The Mendelian explanation of continuous variation

19 The chemical basis of inheritance

The discovery of the double helix

Genetics in modern thought

20 Epilogue: Toward a science of science

Scientists and the scientific milieu

The maturation of theories and concepts

Impediments to the maturation of theories and concepts

The sciences and the external milieu

Progress in science





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