The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From

The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From

by Edward Dolnick

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Overview

The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From by Edward Dolnick

Why cracking the code of human conception took centuries of wild theories, misogynist blunders, and ludicrous mistakes

Throughout most of human history, babies were surprises. People knew the basics: men and women had sex, and sometimes babies followed. But beyond that the origins of life were a colossal mystery. The Seeds of Life is the remarkable and rollicking story of how a series of blundering geniuses and brilliant amateurs struggled for two centuries to discover where, exactly, babies come from.

Taking a page from investigative thrillers, acclaimed science writer Edward Dolnick looks to these early scientists as if they were detectives hot on the trail of a bedeviling and urgent mystery. These strange searchers included an Italian surgeon using shark teeth to prove that female reproductive organs were not 'failed' male genitalia, and a Catholic priest who designed ingenious miniature pants to prove that frogs required semen to fertilize their eggs.

A witty and rousing history of science, The Seeds of Life presents our greatest scientists struggling-against their perceptions, their religious beliefs, and their deep-seated prejudices-to uncover how and where we come from.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465082957
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 06/06/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 148,836
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Edward Dolnick is the former chief science writer for The Boston Globe and is the author of, among others, The Rush and The Clockwork Universe. He splits his time between Virginia and New York City.

Table of Contents

Time Line ix

Prologue England in the Early 1630s 1

Part 1 Peering into the Body

1 Onward to Glory 7

2 Hidden in Deep Night 15

3 Swallowing Stones and Drinking Dew 23

4 Unmoored in Time 37

5 "Double, Double Toil and Trouble" 52

6 Door A or Door B? 64

Part 2 The Search for the EGG

7 Missing: One Universe (Reward to Finder) 81

8 Sharks' Teeth and Cows' Eggs 89

9 The Egg, At Last 96

10 A World in a Drop of Water 104

11 "Animals of the Semen" 114

Part 3 Russian Dolls

12 Dolls Within Dolls 125

13 The Message in God's Fine Print 138

14 Sea of Troubles 148

15 The Rabbit Woman of Godliman 160

16 "All in Pieces, All Coherence Gone" 172

17 The Cathedral That Built Itself 185

18 A Vase in Silhouette 197

Part 4 The Clockwork Topples and a New Theory Rises

19 Frogs in Silk Pants 209

20 A Drop of Venom 220

21 The Craze of the Century 228

22 "I Saw the Dull Yellow Eye of the Creature Open" 238

23 The Nose of the Sphinx 246

24 "The Game Is Afoot" 252

25 Caught! 258

Acknowledgments 265

Illustration Credits 266

Notes 267

Bibliography 289

Index 297

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