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I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History Paperback – August 29, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gould, whose name has become synonymous with evolutionary biology, once again collects 31 essays from his Natural History column. Gould completed his 300th column for the magazine on the doubly significant 2001 millennium and centennial of his family's arrival at Ellis Island (thus the title, borrowed from his grandfather's journal entry that day). Several of these essays explore the ambiguous relations of art, science and the natural world. Gould compels readers to see the natural world outside the frame of the familiar, to seek the quirky outside the canonical, to challenge our assumptions. This is evident when he gleefully reports on the Human Genome Project, showing our genetic stuff to be only twice what a roundworm needs "to manufacture its utter, if elegant, outward simplicity." His essays affirm his belief in the power of science to overcome past error, and as always, he is intolerant of the misapplication as well as the rejection of science, dismissing left- and right-wing claims about Darwin as brusquely as he does the anti-evolutionist Kansas Board of Education, whose yellow brick road "can only spiral inward toward restriction and ignorance." Gould is at the peak of his abilities in this latest menagerie of wonders.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is the tenth and final anthology of Gould's essays from Natural History magazine. Through the writings in this series, Gould has influenced public opinion on science in numerous ways that other scientists, who eschew the essay as a vehicle for technical communication, cannot even approach. As in all of the volumes, Gould writes on Darwinism, evolutionary theory, the history of science, and the joys of doing scientific research. Somewhat more in this volume than in the others, he expresses his personal thoughts and experiences, such as in the titular essay and in the concluding short piece, "September 11, 2001." Some critics wince at his often turgid prose and argue that he depicts his opinions as facts, but this volume, which coincides with the publication of his magnum opus, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, deserves to be celebrated as a career accomplishment. Gould's many fans and foes alike should congratulate him for these achievements and also for having the grace to know when to move on. This anthology belongs in all public and academic libraries. Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674061624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674061620
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About 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.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
That's how one review in the media described this - the tenth and final collection of Gould's essays written for Natural History. Another commented on the fact that Gould knew when to move on - to give up writing scientific essays, even though he is widely recognized as being the first to "popularize" science using this format. Most scientists avoid writing essays, largely they argue, because it's inappropriate for science. You wouldn't be too far off however if you thought that perhaps it's also because Gould had already mastered the genre, and absolutely no scientist wishes to come second to Gould. If you know only one thing about the "science wars" it's a good bet it's you know that mentioning the name Stephen Jay Gould to many scientists is akin to waving a red flag at a bull.
Much of science reading will be that much duller now. Gould's death from cancer earlier this week makes this last group of 30 essays truly his final collection. It's thus likely to be much more popular that many previous ones. All the more so when you start reading and see here that Gould is much more personal, ranges further and deeper with his philosophical thinking, and refreshingly is less polemical in his views. Although on this last point in an essay on the Human Genome Project and its revelation that our genome contains only about a third of the number of genes predicted, Gould takes his mandatory swipe at the "Dawkinsian" scientists and says that the HGP shows "the failure of reductionism".
Another essay I enjoyed is Gould's discussion of recent feathered dinosaur finds and their significance to understanding the origins of flight.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm crying as I write this because Steve Gould just died of cancer, and he was a friend. No, I never met him, but I've read his essays for years and he was a brilliant man who wrote to you as if you were smart, too, but you just didn't know the inside terminology. This is the last book of his collected science essays from Natural History magazine, but his subjects are much wider than science. There's a lot of biology here, and a lot of why you should care about biology, but the most important thing is that this book -- like all of Steve's books -- is like listening to a friend who's fascinating. Each chapter here was a Natural History column and the subjects range from baseball to evolution. I know this is rambling on and I'm sorry. I will miss him, my smart friend Steve. As much as you can love someone you know only from his writing, I loved him. That's the kind of writer -- and scientist -- he was. He cared passionately about knowledge.
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Format: Hardcover
I was a little bit disconcerted when I saw the title of this, Stephen Jay Gould's last collection of essays. I thought: has he anticipated his own sadly premature death with the metaphoric "I Have Landed" or is this a kind of melancholy coincidence, or perhaps I am reading into the title something different from what it warrants?
As it turns out, "I Have Landed" is not a reference to the Lethe shore of the poet, but a reference to his grandfather's arrival at Ellis Island on September 11, 1901, exactly, to the day, one century before the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. It is from this coincidence that Gould embarks upon some musings that form the touchstone for this, his tenth and last collection of essays.
He is a man who will be sorely missed, a complete original, at once the very embodiment of a meticulous scientist and an establishment New York liberal. He is one of our greatest essayists, a humanist and a quintessentially rational man who has often argued in favor of the value and importance of religious thought. Born in modest circumstance, descendent of Hungarian immigrants (as was another of our most prolific writers, Isaac Asimov) he fell in love (as he recounts in these pages) with the NYC Museum of National History as a child and never lost his love for "the odd little tidbits," nor his sense of himself as a natural historian. He is a "student of snails" (p. 324), a classical nerd "shorter than average" (p. 246) who spent more time at the Hayden Planetarium and the Tyrannosaurus exhibition than he did playing his beloved baseball, a paleontologist who became not only a gifted essayist but an international celebrity.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Steve Gould's work and have all of his books, but my major feeling after reading this book was of disappointment.
The style is all there, particularly the focus on the particular to make a general point, but the content is flabby. The most obvious examples of this are the articles on Gilbert and Sullivan and Hayden's Creation which make moderately interesting points but could so easily have been cut in half. There was also far too much repetition within essays and from previous essays. Far too often I felt like I was reading a rehash of a previous article. The Haeckel essay was a perfect example of this - nothing new since Ontogeny. Also as a UK citizen, it's parochial air put me off, especially the introduction where he talks to the audience as if it's solely American (and I speak as an Englishman who thoroughly enjoyed the baseball section of Full House (or as it was retitled for us benighted Brits "Life's Grandeur"))
I'm still happy I bought this book, but for me it's the least of his essay collections. If you haven't read Steve Gould before buy "Bully for Brontosaurus" first.
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