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Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species Hardcover – February 10, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
It's unclear whether the title refers to the daring naturalist/explorers Carroll depicts or the creatures whose remains they found. In this thoroughly enjoyable book, Carroll (Endless Forms Most Beautiful), a molecular biologist at the University of Wisconsin, provides vignettes of some of the fascinating people who have made the most significant discoveries in evolutionary biology. He starts with some of the experiences and insights of great explorers like Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry Walter Bates, then turns his attention to paleontologists who searched for the fossil evidence to support the new theory of evolution. Among them are Eugène Dubois's discovery of Java Man; Charles Walcott's discovery of the Burgess Shale and the evidence it provided for the Cambrian explosion; and Neil Shubin's recent discovery in arctic Canada of Tiktaalik, the intermediary between water- and land-dwelling vertebrates. Carroll closes with studies of human evolution, from Louis and Mary Leakey to the advances of Linus Pauling and Allan Wilson, which indicated that Neanderthals were cousins of Homo sapiens rather than direct ancestors. While there's little that's new here, Carroll does weave an arresting tapestry of evolutionary advancement. Photos, maps. (Feb. 10)
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"These scientific adventurers inspire the author—and will do the same for experts and novices alike—with their fearless dedication to getting at the truth, as far as it can be known. A stirring introduction to the wonder of evolutionary biology." --Kirkus Review, 12/15/08
Top Customer Reviews
At a time when the battle between science and superstition continues to rage in America's courts and classrooms, "Remarkable Creatures" offers an excellent survey, in a most entertaining and enlightening way, of some of the key scientific discoveries in the last 200 years that shaped our understanding of the history of life on earth. It is an interesting blend of adventure stories and detective mysteries that examines the lives of some of the past and present-day scientists and explorers who came up with "paradigm shifts" that shook conventional wisdom to its very foundations.
The first three chapters of "Remarkable Creatures" tell the stories of Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace and Henry Walter Bates. On epic sea voyages and dangerous wilderness expeditions in the 1800s, these men collectively gathered overwhelming evidence to support the then-heretical ideas of evolution, natural selection and "survival of the fittest." The scope, elegance and impact of their work, which shocked their contemporaries and profoundly changed the face of scientific inquiry forever, are still amazing to consider even today.
Next are six chapters telling the stories of paleontologists who, through tireless efforts under the most primitive field conditions in remote regions of the earth, deciphered the long natural history of life before man.Read more ›
Carroll follows Humboldt, Darwin, Wallace, and Bates on their individual voyages of discovery. They were all subjected to the dangers of ocean travel, wild animals, tropical disease, tribal people, and a primitive lifestyle. He takes us along with Dubois, who found the first primitive human remains in Java - Java Man. We meet the diplomatic Charles Wolcott who excavated the Grande Canyon for the United States. He was responsible for one of the most important mother lodes of fossils ever found - the Burgess Shale - and its treasures involving the Cambrian explosion.
We go with the pistol-toting Roy Chapman Andrew to Mongolia and find the first dinosaur eggs. Scared to death of snakes, Chapman is said to have inspired the George Lucas's character, Indiana Jones. Father and son Alvarez follow their curiosity about a strange archeological layer found around the world at the 68 million years ago mark. The layer never has fossils in it, but lots of iridium.Read more ›
And what a fantastic adventure it is. The author has a special ability to mix science with a compelling narrative to keep that keeps the level of interest high. Each character (past scientists) are given their own stories, accompanied by their own struggles, beliefs (right or wrong), methodologies, and findings. Building upon one another, as the adventures of these "remarkable creatures" (human beings and the scientists themselves), the story flows well through the times and advanced in sciences to almost be something out of a movie, with each successive scientist receiving the baton of knowledge to further the knowledge... except, these stories are not only entertaining, but true.
Regardless whether your beliefs are that your god (whichever one you picked) created everything, or that we evolved from some kind of soupy glop (against highly improbably odds), or that we're the offspring of extraterrestrial bacteria that was seeded (intentionally or not), this book is an incredible read, and whose facts are nary debatable.
Certainly the best book I've read in a long while, and one that is really worth of 5 stars - EXCELLENT.
Would highly recommend. Storytelling at it's finest: Stories of the scientists whom are sorting out the stories of our ancient past.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not mind-blowing writing like "Age of Wonder", but great none-the-less! I would recommend it to any interested in getting a foundational understanding of evolutionary discoveries... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Kirsten Poulsen House
This is another book for one of my sons-in-law. He'll receive it in about 2 weeks.Published 12 months ago by Frances E. Jones
The book was interesting in its revelations of the inter connectedness among discoveries in paleontology, theories of natural selection, the origin of the species, and progress in... Read morePublished on August 31, 2014 by Barbara A. Dicostanzo
sean b. carroll wrote a fine book for the person with average science level expertise. I found the book very interesting and well worth the price.Published on July 24, 2014 by kevin w. wright
A good book if you enjoy reading woffle without substance. Well written and with a good command of English, Mr. Read morePublished on May 23, 2014 by Kindle Customer
My background is chemical eng. I like reading the cradle of civilisation, astronomy, physics, archaeology, palaeontology, biology, anthropology, electronics. Read morePublished on January 8, 2014 by Jonatan Sutrisna
As a biology teacher, I am always on the look out for books that students will enjoy, while also learning. Dr. Read morePublished on August 16, 2013 by Michele Naber