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The Diversity of Life

4.5 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393310474
ISBN-10: 0393310477
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Humans, the Harvard University entomologist Edward O. Wilson has observed, have an innate--or at least extremely ancient--connection to the natural world, and our continued divorce from it has led to the loss of not only "a vast intellectual legacy born of intimacy" with nature, but also our very sanity. In The Diversity of Life, Wilson takes a sweeping view of our planet's natural richness, remarking on what on the surface seems a paradox: "almost all the species that ever lived are extinct, and yet more are alive today than at any time in the past." (Wilson's elegant explanation is a scientific education in itself.) This great variety of species is, of course, threatened by habitat destruction, global climate change, and a host of other forces, and Wilson revisits his oft-stated call for the protection of wilderness and undeveloped land, noting that "wilderness has virtue unto itself and needs no extraneous justification." We should, he continues, regard every species, "every scrap of biodiversity," as precious and irreplaceable, without attempting to quantify that regard with utilitarian measures such as "bio-economics." In short, Wilson offers with this book a simple, workable environmental ethic that extends the work of Aldo Leopold and other conservationists. A remarkably productive and influential scientist, Wilson is also a fine writer, and his survey of biodiversity makes for welcome and instructive reading. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is still the best book on biodiversity. Wilson, an eminent Harvard entomologist, details the rise of biodiversity on earth and the human threats to it. His eloquent plea to save the rich variety of plant and animal life will resonate with readers of all ages and educational backgrounds.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc (October 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393310477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393310474
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,062,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Regarded as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson grew up in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, where he spent his boyhood exploring the region's forests and swamps, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants--the latter to become his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Ants" and "The Naturalist" as well as his first novel "Anthill," Wilson, a professor at Harvard, makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an important book.
But first a warning: readers should have some basic biological knowledge and part of the book (with many examples and useful digressions) will only appeal to botanists/microbiologists.
Prof. Wilson clearly demonstrates that the world's demographic explosion initiated a big extinction of all sort of biological species and that we have to stop this, for biodiversity is priceless.
Governments take the biological wealth of their country not serious enough. He states for instance that fewer than 3 percent of the flowering plants of the world have been examined for alkoloids and that many species are at risk.
Prof. Wilson illustrates very forcefully the impact of biodiversity by giving numerous examples from the medical, pharmaceutical, energy and agricultural field with colossal numbers in $ for actual applications.
To give one example: 'the rosy periwinkle of Madagascar produces two alkaloids that cure most victims of two of the deadliest of cancers, Hodgkin's disease and acute lymphocytic leukaemia. The income from the manufacture and sale of these two substances exceeds $ 180 million a year.' (p.271)
This is a very important book for the future of humanity. It cannot be underrated.
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Format: Paperback
There are some books where the superlative is simply insufficient. Edward Wilson writes with panache and vigor. He knows how to describe and keep the reader entertained. It was like I was reading fiction.

Wilson also writes with detail and accuracy. He knows his science. He knows the intricacy of ecology, and knows enough to know he can't know everything. This allows him to keep the mystery alive for the reader. I was continually astonished to see how he pulled in various aspects of Biology when telling a life story, and various sciences, to show how it All was inter-related. He would pull in constant relationships between different forms of life, and just when I thought he was done, he would go down a microscopic level. And then down another five levels. If is possible to be a savant within ecology, then this is it.

Wilson doesn't stop with good writing and excellent research. He tells us there's a problem. This is another The Jungle- only this time, there isn't much of a jungle left. Through out the book he makes clear that the planet is dying, and dying fast, and the causes of this death. Through the use of the ecological relationships, we see how an attack on one species can be an attack on thousands. Better authors are brave enough to tell us that not everything is okay.

The best authors tell us that there's a way to solve these problems. There are gloom and doom authors out there, teaching the world that everything will be destroyed, and the only thing to do now is get saved yourself. That's too little, and too easy, for Wilson.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a freshman at college and I was required to read this for class. When I sat down to read this I thought it was going to be just another stupid book. I WAS WRONG! It is one of the most moving and motivating books I've ever read. Wilson backs up all of his ideas 110%. Though they are opinions, he makes some really good points. You'll want to be a biologist after reading it. You'll want to go out and not just plant a tree but a whole forest!
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By A Customer on January 25, 1997
Format: Paperback
Wilson writes a great overview of biodiversity--how it is created, why it is crucial to human survival, and what we must do to preserve it. Enjoy accessible and well-documented writing that takes you from California to Madagascar, from the present to the beginnings of life as known from the fossil record. Along the way you'll learn many of the crucial ecological and evolutionary concepts (such as natural selection, community ecology, biogeography, and more) necessary for understanding what biodiversity is and how it is maintained. And finally, in the last part of the book, learn about philosophies and practices that will enable each of us to preserve the amazing diversity of life that surrounds us. You'll want to be a biologist by the time you finish the book!
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Format: Paperback
An incredibly full and rich book that seems to cover every aspect of nature - it poses great questions about diversity and human impact and uses countless examples and sound research. Really great - better if you have a science background as I (without such a background) was a little lost in some of the examples/descriptions. I ceratinly feel better for having read this book. Its a very important work.
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Format: Paperback
One of the most accessible of E.O. Wilson's books. This book puts humans in the context of another animal amidst great biodiversity. One of the most humane aspects of this book is to help us humans feel part of something greater, not someone superior and exclusive to nature.

The value of biodiversity and the symbiotic relationships of animals to each other paints a picture that is both enlightening as well as uplifting. This book was one that changed my mindset on many fronts and I owe a great deal to E.O. Wilson for this wonderful book.

As a companion to this wonderful book, I would read "The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins. You come away from reading both books with a renewed appreciation for life on our planet and for our place amidst this great diversity of life.
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