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Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061430315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061430312
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dunn, a biologist at North Carolina State University, does an admirable job of exploring the human drive to find and understand the manifold forms of life that surround them. With his light and enjoyable style, he also provides fascinating character sketches of some of the scientists (often obsessive, usually brilliant, occasionally half-mad) who made the most important discoveries, with enough scientific context for readers to understand their significance. Dunn ranges from Antoine van Leeuwenhoek's amazing microscopic discoveries in the scientific backwater of 17th-century Delft to a major 20th-century undertaking to explore life near deep sea vents where the ocean floor is expanding. But Dunn has a deeper message: life is more diverse and less like us than we had imagined. Indeed, he says, humans are far from central in the story of life's evolution on Earth; most life is microscopic, living in and deeply below the soil and likely comprising at least half of the planet's biomass. Finally, Dunn writes about scientific hubris: virtually every scientific prediction about conditions limiting life have been proven incorrect. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“If you have any interest in life beyond your own, you should read this book...Between the covers of EVERY LIVING THING you’ll learn both about life’s amazing diversity and that process of their discovery. Savor this fascinating volume and then help to preserve life’s wonders.” (Paul R. Ehrlich, author of THE DOMINANT ANIMAL: HUMAN EVOLUTION AND THE ENVIRONMENT)

“His writing is concise and entertaining. So entertaining that I found myself laughing out loud and following my husband around saying, “Listen to this!” over and over again as I read.” (Internet Review of Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I'm not a scientist and don't usually read non-fiction, but I really liked this book.
Sandra M. Bruney
As a book about biology, "Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life" is a fascinating story of discovery.
Pavel Somov, Ph.D., author of "Lotus Effect," "Present Perfect," & "Eating the Moment"
I highly recommend this to anyone who likes good popular science reading (scientists included!).
Andrew M. Latimer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andrew M. Latimer on December 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very entertaining story of how, since Linnaeus and Leuwenhoek, scientists have discovered vast new unknown realms of life: single-celled life, bacteria, archaea, insects of the tropical forest canopy, and more. What is stunning is how much of the world has been hidden "in plain sight" waiting for someone with the imagination just to stop and look, and the drive to keep looking. One remarkable fact: microscopes had been invented and were available for a century or so before cells and micro-organisms were even noticed. How many more major discoveries are out there still waiting to be made? Probably more than a few.

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes good popular science reading (scientists included!). It's an entertaining narrative that introduces you to fascinating characters who have made major biological discoveries, many of whom you've probably heard of and some likely not. By bringing the reader into the moment of discovery and the personal real life of the discoverers, this book captures the perspective of the explorer and the struggle that's often involved in getting answers and convincing the world they're true.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Goska on June 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this history of the discovery and study of new life-forms, author Ron Dunn is at his best recounting the triumphs and foibles of earlier investigators like Leeuwenhoek (credited with invention of the microscope), Linnaeus (credited with invention of taxonomy) and Wallace (credited as co-originator of the theory of evolution). His book loses a lot of momentum once Dunn is up to the present day and dealing with investigators who are still alive and, if they are Lynn Margulis or Carl Woese, taking themselves very, very seriously. Professional courtesy apparently demands a respectful, rather worshipful tone when dealing with these ambulatory colleagues, and no mention of any hint of foible or foolishness, so reading becomes a lot less fun. But not every tale of moderns is stilted. Dunn gives us the story of Dan Janzen, a naturalist so in touch with nature, and so out of touch with civilization that, after collecting twenty million dollars to fund a complete survey of species in a national park, he gives the money to a Central American government to administer. The Central American government administers the twenty million out of sight in less time than it takes a magician to make a silver dollar disappear, and the survey is never done. Dunn also provides a sympathetic treatment of the much-scorned Olavi Kajander, but more or less credits him with the discovery of nanobacteria, ignoring Robert Folk (it probably never occurred to Dunn to google "nannobacteria" as well as "nanobacteria").

Sometimes Dunn ends his stories too soon. Tullis Onstott reports finding, 2.8 miles down in the earth, bacteria that are living on the "energy produced by the radioactive decay of rocks." What?? Are they living on alpha rays, beta rays, gamma rays?
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sylvan Gray on April 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating look at the attempt to understand all the different kinds of life and to place them into categories. It starts back with Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who first made microscopes capable of seeing bacteria, and moves forward to recent developments in extremophile life and genetic analysis. I highly recommend it.

This is the first book I've read by someone I know - Rob's daughter is in the same preschool class as my daughter. And I found myself staggered that he had time to write at all, what with raising a child and being a full-time professor. Plus, that he had such interesting things to talk about. And interesting stories: he and his wife (a medical anthropologist) spent time in a small village in the Amazon, cataloging the medicinal uses of various plants and watching the local children's pet monkey ride on around a pet pig. Among other things.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wonderful, an overview on biology that encompasses history, present and future.
Think that everyone interested in biology should read it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a scientist and don't usually read non-fiction, but I really liked this book. Dunn describes our need to know and name things in an entertaining style as he leads us on a journey from microbes to the cosmos. Be sure to read the footnotes!
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