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By A Customer
This review is from: The Dream of Eternal Life (Hardcover)
As a science writer, I've long been familiar with Dr. Benecke's cutting-edge work as a forensic entomologist. But it wasn't until I read The Dream of Eternal Life that I understood the good doctor's almost cult-like celebrity status in his native Deutschland. Not only does "Herr Maggot" turn up regularly on the front page of the German tabloids, some of his country's most talented writers and playwrights have been busy immortalizing the existential meaning of his undeniably gruesome forensic work (most famously, determining time of death by the insects found on murder victims).
In The Dream, Benecke proves himself to be the ultimate philosopher-scientist, peering beyond the physicality of the life science to address the BIG questions: Why are we here? Why do we die? What gives it all meaning?
A true renaissance man, Benecke also proves himself a knowledgeable and talented historian. In Dream, he traces the unfolding of our current understanding of life, evolution, and the powers that drive them. I especially enjoy his way with quotes--some of them obscure, but all of them enlightening. Among my favorites, in Chapter 1, Benecke ties together American biochemist Stanley Miller's famous recreation of the chemical precursors of life on Earth with German biologist Ernst Haeckel's earlier jest: "Condense away--soon enough, something will start crawling." As you may recall from high-school biology, that's pretty much what Miller did!
Importantly, you don't HAVE to remember your high-school biology to follow Benecke's enjoyable text. Unlike the majority of scientists-turned-writers, he conscientiously explains the basics for the layperson. Those who come to the book with a science background will enjoy the rich context he weaves for familiar milestones in research. I only wish The Dream of Eternal Life was around when I was 19 and trying to figure out the "meaning of it all."