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The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time Paperback – May 30, 1995
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Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
We're introduced to a populationg that is perfect for evolutionary studies--a limited number of species in a closed ecosystem on an isolated island. Darwin couldn't have known what his observations would lead to so many years later, but Weiner shares with us the Grants meticulous study of over 20 generations of finches. Thousands of individual birds were measured, and their progeny tracked. Through this book, we see what they saw--evolution in action.
Weiner weaves facts into a nice story. The book is engaging and reads like a novel, so much so that my 13 year-old daughter is now reading it.
The conclusions (and no, this isn't a spoiler) are that evolution by natural selection occurs and that selection can occur quickly (it's not always a slow process). Weiner (and the Grants) also touches on speciation in fish populations, and bacterial and viral evolution.
This was required reading in an introductory evolution class in college. I hope, someday, students in high school will be assigned this book. It was excellent, and will probably be wrapped up as Christmas gifts for a few of my friends and family.
One of the particular things they are attempting to observe directly is a speciation event - the creation of a new species of finch - which we long assumed must take place over geologic time and hence is unobservable. But in the process, Weiner reviews the notion of evolution, with fascinating tidbits from Darwin's original research and thoughts on these same finches of the Galopagos. It is a brilliant portrait of the cutting edge in science as well as a detailed review of many basic notions of evolution.
It is also a beautifully written book, indeed a masterpiece of elucidation. And it is all hard science, rather than the pseudo-scientific pap that passes for it in so many popular magazines today. While its rigor makes the book a challenge to read, it is well worth the effort.
Recommended, one of the best pieces of scientific journalism I ever read.
In every other respect the book is a fine piece of work, valuable and entertaining. The treatment of the themes, the subjects and the material is well balanced. Weiner structures the subject and the contexts competently and coherently. The book obviously took a large helping of hard work to write and to research. In spite of the title, the Finches, though they are the main protagonists and endearing to boot, do not obscure the main theme, which is at all times the effect and mechanism of natural selection in evolution.
Apart from the grounds for my one opening complaint, the book is well, clearly and pleasantly written. I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in biology, professional or not. I suspect that many readers will wonder what I was grousing about. And in case anyone with an even greater distaste for those passages feels tempted to drop the book in irritation, I urge them to grit their teeth, skim the offending bits and bear it. There is plenty of Good Stuff to compensate for the annoyance, and I cannot think of any other book which so accessibly, lucidly and persuasively covers the same material.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great introduction to legendary field-work. It isn't a critical analysis: it's a hymn of sorts to some admirable scientists spanning a century and a half. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Otter
More impressive, and more memorable than the story of the finches is the story of the couple that contributed to all that is written in this book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Damiana Andonova
A must read for evolutionary biology fans. A great story of how science works in the field - it is tough, grueling, frustrating, and requires enormous patience, not to say... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Book Fiend
Fabulous read. Going to the Galapagos next year. Excited after reading this great bookPublished 2 months ago by William Anderson
Excellent account of a family's and team of researchers years of studying evolution before their eyes. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Carolyn Bassett
A well researched examination of what to expect from evolution, from your own gut to global warming. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Don Null
Can see why it got the Pulitzer. Really comprehensive coverage of the topic of scientific exploration and validation of Darwin to the date it was written.Published 3 months ago by B. Neswald