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When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time Hardcover – May, 2003
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I would recommend this volume to any general reader with an interest in paleontology and earth history. The book covers the early history of geology and especially the biographies and activities of those researchers who helped define the rock sequences which every student memorizes: Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary. He focuses particularly on those who clarified the facies of the Permian and Triassic and brought to light the fact that "something funny" was going on then.
Although no real background in geology is needed to comprehend the narrative, I suspect that most will find the first chapters more interesting than later ones. The author touches upon subjects like uniformitarianism and catastrophism and the disagreement between them and upon the scientific free-for-all that arises over new theories like the impact demise of the dinosaurs, making them quite clear for the average reader. He subsequently builds upon the basics he has provided to carry one through his thesis. Once he gets into the actual discussion about the causes of the Permian event, however, the discussion settles down to chemistry, especially atmospheric and oceanic chemistry: how they work, how they interact, and how they can go horribly wrong.Read more ›
The second third of the book discusses the nature of mass extinctions, describing why paleontologists were inclined originally to think of mass extinctions as the result of apparent bias in sampling of the fossil record, not as real events denoting substantial loss of the Earth's biodiversity. Benton devotes much space to discussing possible scenarios for the end Cretaceous mass extinction, noting that that the asteroid impact theory proposed by Luis Alvarez, his son Walter, and their colleagues at Berkeley is the one accepted now by scientists.Read more ›
In this book, Dr. Benton addresses the multiple quandaries underlying mass extinctions, and ever-continuing, sometimes controversial, even acrimonious, effort to solve them. As per his high standards, Dr. Benton's text is highly readable, even though complex problems are being analyzed. He introduces the reader to alien or new concepts capably, and the text forms a seamless web along which any reader having a limited exposure to scientific disciplines may proceed without strenuous effort.
NOTE: Although the book's title appears to indicate a rather exclusive discussion about the largest mass extinction, the Permian-Triassic event, which ended the Paleozoic Era and ushered in the Mesozoic, the actual scope of the book is more broad. This is a pleasant, and very helpful, surprise.
Dr. Benton begins with the discovery of dinosaurs, and the history of the mapping of Europe's stratigraphy, before moving into the area of mass extinctions. Without this preliminary discussion, it would be far more difficult to understand how the concept and science of these events developed. I view this as a positive aspect of the book, since the concept of catastrophic events affecting the course of life's progress was most difficult for pioneers in the field to accept. The text admirably demonstrates that science is, after all, a human endeavor, complete with feuds, rivalries, and disputes. Indeed, much scientific progress has been achieved via disagreements and attempt to disprove the opponent's theories. I recommend this discussion to the students of ANY scientific discipline, not just paleontology.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
... is exquisitely covered in this wonderful book. Beginning with a description of paleontological trends and personalities, and ending with a very complete description of the... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rick Theis
I fault this book because its title is a little misleading. It spent most of its pages talking about general extinctions etc but didn't really dig deep into the actual Permian... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Michael L. Patrick
This British-flavored revelation about the latest discoveries regarding the Permian-Triassic extinction is fairly technical, but enlightening for the non-specialist reader. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Roger Ruggeri
This book presents current thinking on the causes of two of the five great extinction events. It is well documented and thorough enough to delight the most exacting enthusiast . Read morePublished 6 months ago by marcia rice
Buy the book it’s very good.
‘When Life Nearly Died’ is a very interesting read about the largest known mass extinction at the end of the Permian. Read more
"Flat Earther's" and those with a minimal science background might struggle comprehending the material in this book. I enjoyed it immensely.Published 7 months ago by Rick
When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time by Michael J. Benton
I am an admitted fan of “gosh-wow!” science (and history, for that matter. Read more