- Paperback: 974 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (1982)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674364465
- ISBN-13: 978-0674364462
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 5.9 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #726,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance Reprint Edition
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Professor Mayr has written a monumental history of biological ideas...[It is] a marvelous course in evolution, taught historically. For a reader who is willing to make the effort, this book provides one of the best and most nearly complete discussions of these ideas to be found anywhere. It is an example of those rare books in popular science which can teach scientists as well as laymen...[This book] is full of insights and historical revelations. Nothing quite like The Growth of Biological Thought has been attempted before. It is a book that could have been written only by a scientist in complete command of his subject. (Jeremy Bernstein New Yorker)
This is an extraordinary, epic work in which Mayr once again shows himself a master of detail, interpretation, and synthesis. (Douglas J. Futuyma Science)
The Growth of Biological Thought will be a richly rewarding experience...Mayr's vivid manner, his clear analytical distinctions, his candor in meeting controversial issues head on, make his discussions as stimulating as they are valuable. (Frederic L. Holmes Washington Post Book World)
Mayr concentrates on scientific problems and concepts, placing them in the intellectual milieu of each historical period...Tightly drawn, highly opinionated presentations are invaluable in science, and Mr. Mayr's [book] is certainly provocative. (James L. Gould New York Times Book Review)
This solid book...is essential reading for everyone at all interested in evolution, in biology or its history, or in science in general. (A. J. Cain Nature)
Mayr's book is a book of great erudition and insight. No other single volume offers such an extensive account of the history of the subjects in question while providing as penetrating a view of the nature of these subjects. (Richard W. Burkhardt Times Higher Education Supplement)
From the Back Cover
No book has ever established the life sciences so firmly in the mainstream of Western intellectual history as 'The Growth of Biological Thought.' Ten years in preparation, this is a work of epic proportions, tracing the development of the major problems of biology, from the earliest attempts to find order in the diversity of life to modern research into the mechanisms of gene transmission.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mayr had his weak points (as all people do), but they were certainly not in depth of knowledge. Starting as an ornithologist (he could identify the local birds around his home in Germany by the time he was ten) he built a solid reputation as an evolutionary biologist. He early on (correctly, I believe) took the view that the "nature-nurture" argument was not valid, as genes and environment can never be separated. He is also the author of numerous quotable statements on the scientific method, biology and evolutionary thought, such as "...most scientific problems are far better understood by studying their history than their logic," a statement he backs up in this huge tome.
Indeed, Mayr is right; to understand scientific problems one needs to understand the history of thought involved. For example, Mayr first proposed punctuated equilibrium, as noted by S. J. Gould and Niles Eldredge, and defined much of the evolutionary landscape of speciation. Without the knowledge of Mayr's contribution and contributions made by other biological giants, starting with Darwin and going on through Sewell Wright, George Gaylord Simpson, the Huxleys, Dobzhansky, George Williams and many others, the rich development of biological thought is almost indecipherable. In essence, we really need to know how a particular idea was derived in order to understand its significance (It was not until I was taught the significance of the history behind cell theory that I really appreciated it!) This is how biology should be taught and this is a good book with which to start. I recommend it highly.