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Ontogeny and Phylogeny Paperback – February 16, 1985

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Steve Jay Gould has given us a superb analysis of the use of ontogenetic analogy, the controversies over ontogeny and phylogeny, and the classification of the different processes observable in comparing different ontogenies. His massive book (in each chapter of which there is as much material as in whole books by other writers) is both a historical exposition of the whole subject of ontogeny and phylogeny, and...a fascinating attempt at a functional interpretation of those phylogenetic alterations that involve changes of timing developmental processes in related organisms. (A. J. Cain Nature)

In Gould's...new book...Ontogeny and Phylogeny, a scholarly study of the theory of recapitulation, he not only explains scientific theory but comments on science itself, with clarity and wit, simultaneously entertaining and teaching...[This] is a rich book. (James Gorman New York Times Book Review)

It is rare indeed to read a new book and recognize it for a classic...Gould has given biologists a new way to see the organisms they study. The result is a major achievement. (S. Rachootin American Scientist)

Gould's book--pervaded, I should say, with an erudition and felicity of style that make it a delight to read--is a radical work in every sense...It returns one's attention to the roots of our science--the questions about the great pageant of evolution, the marvelous diversity of form that our theory is meant to explain. (D. Futuyma Quarterly Review of Biology)

A distinguished and pioneering work. (Ernst Mayr)

This [is a] fat, handsome book crammed with provocative ideas...Ontogeny and Phylogeny is an important and thoughtful book which will be a valuable source of ideas and controversies for anyone interested in evolutionary or developmental biology. (Matt Cartmill Science)

From the Back Cover

In this, the first major book on the subject in fifty years, Stephen Jay Gould documents the history of the idea of recapitulation from its appearance among the pre-Socratics to its demise in the early twentieth century.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (January 17, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674639413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674639416
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom L. Forest on November 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of the three most influential books I've read in the last 20 years.
"The world was a better place when I was young," "Kids today are worse than they were 20 years ago," are two of the more egregious examples I hear of people confusing ontogeny (development of an individual) with phylogeny (development of a type or collective). The world has always been a complicated and widely mixed placed. It is far more likely for an individual's perceptions to change in the course of a lifetime than the world that we perceive.
Gould's essays (and books collecting them) are pleasant bits of fluff that entertainingly (and sneakily) deliver well-informed and timely bits of science. "Ontogeny and Philogeny" goes the next level down, using interesting bits of (mostly) science to deliver well-informed and timely bits of philosophy.
I bought this book because I was curious about the relationship between ontogeny and philogeny. "Does ontogeny recapitulate phylogeny?" was on my mind. No, says Gould. Better, he describes what that relationship is. Along the way, he explains how humans are differentiated from other species (a topic well expanded by Jared Diamond in "The Third Chimpanzee").
Gould starts with the history of science (Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel); philosophy (Anaximander, Aristotle); and psychology (Cesare Lombroso; Freud). He starts by showing the history of the perceived relationship between phylogeny and ontogeny.
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Format: Paperback
Don't let the title confuse you. "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" is not about "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" but about the THEORY of "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" in its social/historic context. It's as much sociology as biology. An excellent work. This book is not for Joe Public; it's too detailed. The author is harsh and judgemental of the past generations, he tends to get self-righteous as well. But if you like Gould's other writing you're used to that.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Jay Gould takes an insightful look at one of evolution's most misunderstood concepts, namely, that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Beyond demonstrating why E. Haeckel's theory concerning the relationship between ontogenic development and phylogenetic history is incorrect, Gould assumes the daunting task of explaining the complexities of developmental timing and how changes in this timing (e.g., heterochrony) may account for evolutionary change. It is dynamic expose of how scientists across time have sought to understand the relationships between evolution and development. Gould is masterful at explaining such a overwhelming topic and brings the science alive for all who read it. I highly recommend it with the utmost enthusiasm for all who have any interest in the science of development.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) wrote many other important books, such as The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, The Flamingo's Smile, Bully for Brontosaurus, Eight Little Piggies, Dinosaur in a Haystack, Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, I Have Landed: Ultimate Reflections in Natural History, etc.

He wrote in the “Acknowledgements” section of this 1977 book, “I view this book as an organism. I have lived with it for six years… Ernst Mayr, in a passing comment, suggested that I write this book. I only began it as a practice run to learn the style of lengthy exposition before embarking on my magnum opus about macroevolution.
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First, let me praise the book for bringing the very important issue of developmental regulation in macroevolution to the biological community and to the public. However, to note a caveat, Gavin de Beer did much the same thing with "Embryos and Ancestors" decades earlier, and in a way surprisingly more appropriate and relevant to those asking specific biological questions. The main problem with Ontogeny and Phylogeny is that the bulk of it (at least for the first half) is occupied by a collection of esoteric curiosities of little interest to most scientists: Freudian psychoanalysis, educational policy, pre-Aristotelian teleology, and 19th century teratology, craniometry, and phrenology. This material may be good material for Gould's Natural History columns or for coffee house talk, but not for an ostensibly technical work on evolutionary biology. Basically, most readers share my opinion that the important biological points which lie buried in the book could have been presented and done adequate justice to in a book one quarter the size of Ontogeny and Phylogeny. A message to all writers of scientific books: get to the point!!
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