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The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) [Paperback]

Edward O Wilson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 April 2001 Penguin Press Science
"Not since Darwin has an author so lifted the science of ecology with insight and delightful imagery" - Richard Dawkins In this book a master scientist tells the great story of how life on earth evolved. E.O. Wilson eloquently describes how the species of the world became diverse, and why the threat to this diversity today is beyond the scope of anything we have known before. In an extensive new foreword for this edition, Professor Wilson addresses the explosion of the field of conservation biology and takes a clear-eyed look at the work still to be done.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Rev Ed edition (26 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014029161X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140291612
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Not since Darwin has an author so lifted the science of ecology with insight and delightful imagery" - Richard Dawkins"

About the Author

Edward O. Wilson is the Pellegrino University Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University. He is the author of SOCIOBIOLOGY, the two Pulitzer Prize-winning works ON HUMAN NATURE and THE ANTS, and the bestselling CONSILIENCE.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
If you watch nature programmes, Edward O Wilson is one of those intrepid biologists you see fairly frequently, looking serious and concerned, dressed for the jungle and being interviewed about deforestation, biodiversity, ecology and so on. He's one of my favourite "talking heads", along with the likes of David Attenborough. This is the first time I've read one of his books and I found it fascinating. His writing style is not as easy and fluent as some other writers I could mention. The best plain English writer in this general area (well, close enough: evolutionary biology, which is just as potentially technical and complicated) is Richard Dawkins, in my opinion. But Mr Wilson's style gets easier after a couple of chapters as you settle into his flow.
There's a comprehensive Foreword and, at the end there are Notes, a Glossary and an Index. the body of the book is divided into 3 sections:
1) "Violent Nature, Resilient Life" covers the destructive forces of nature such as those that have wiped out vast numbers of species in the past and describes how life clings on and returns to repopulate zones of devastation.
2) "Biodiversity Rising" covers the generation of biodiversity: how and why new species evolve; the time this takes; potential extent of the diversity in various types of habitat.
3) "The Human Impact" covers the ways humans have driven and are driving species to extinction, the speed of destruction, the time it would take to re-establish a high level of biodiversity, the possible consequences of severe reduction in biodiversity for life on earth and humanity in particular, and what can be done to slow down and reverse the impoverishment trend.
The author presents his facts and lays out the case for conservation in a very cool and logical way.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll want to be a biologist! 26 Jan 1997
By A Customer
Wilson writes a great overview of biodiversity--how it is created, why it is crucial to human survival, and what we must do to preserve it. Enjoy accessible and well-documented writing that takes you from California to Madagascar, from the present to the beginnings of life as known from the fossil record. Along the way you'll learn many of the crucial ecological and evolutionary concepts (such as natural selection, community ecology, biogeography, and more) necessary for understanding what biodiversity is and how it is maintained. And finally, in the last part of the book, learn about philosophies and practices that will enable each of us to preserve the amazing diversity of life that surrounds us. You'll want to be a biologist by the time you finish the book!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece 1 Nov 2003
If there's one book that changed my life this is it. The book starts with an almost poetic style. From page one, the author's incredible description of a moonless night in the Amazon jungle transports you there. You are reminded that whilst humans sleep at night, most animals have just begun their activities. Everything we always took for granted is looked at from several different angles throughout the book. Simple facts become beautifully interwound in the web of life. More importantly however, are the simple alternatives and solutions the author presents to our way of life which is rapidly eroding the natural habitat that we depend on for our survival. Books like these should be made compulsory at shcool. Oh, couldn't we substitute those bibles in hotel drawers with this book?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would recommend anyone who is interested in natural history to read this book but to preferably spend more on the hardback edition which has more photos. Ed Wilson's prose is classic and when I first read this book it took me to new levels of understanding. The chapter on Krakatoa is spellbinding. Twenty years ago when I first read it I had no knowledge about mass extinctions or plate tectonics and now these ideas are widely accepted. I bought this copy as it easily slips inside my handbag and I take it with me on train journeys. A winner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is from Chapter 4 of Edward Wilson's book:

"The most wonderful mystery of life may well be the means by which it created so much diversity from so little physical matter. The biosphere, all organisms combined, makes up only about one part in ten billion of the earth's mass. It is sparsely distributed through a kilometre-thick layer of soil, water and air stretched over a half billion square kilometres of surface. If the world were the size of an ordinary desktop globe and its surface were viewed edgewise an arm's length away, no trace of the biosphere could be seen with the naked eye. Yet life has divided into millions of species, the fundamental units, each playing a unique role in relation to the whole."

Wilson divides his ideas, theories and explanations into three main parts: Violent Nature, Resilient Life; Biodiversity Rising; and The Human Impact. In the first section he writes with an almost poetic intensity about the great extinctions that have occurred on the earth since time began. Krakatau (not Krakatoa - which is a westernisation) is an exemplar of how biodiversity can repopulate a devastated plot, an amazing process that is oddly moving to contemplate. Wilson then goes on to talk about the major extinctions - the great eruptions which have occurred repeatedly across long stretches of geological time - and the arguments for one or the other theory of why they happened - meteors or not? The earth appears to have cooled dramatically during the first four crises, eliminating many species and forcing others into smaller areas, rendering them more vulnerable to extinction. He makes the point that a complete recovery from each of the five major extinctions required tens of millions of years.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading, marvellous author
I have always been a huge admirer of the work of E.O. Wilson, but up to now hadn't had any chance of reading any of his books, only scientific articles. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Pablo Valverde
5.0 out of 5 stars Diverse.
This book is great for students in university, I found this book interesting and useful as it aided my modules.
Published 12 months ago by iammeg
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well written treatise on us human beings and evolution
I really like this book. The author comes across as an original thinker. His writing is clear and logical and he presents interesting and compelling arguments. Highly recommended.
Published 13 months ago by Jon Boy
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Important book, up to date edition. Promptly delivered in good cognition. A great book, easy to read, good case studies, super addition to anyone's book shelves
Published 16 months ago by Ms Sue Townsend
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic book
A keynote book - from one of the great acadmic biologists of our time. 20 years old now but still fresh and relevant
Published 23 months ago by Gary White
5.0 out of 5 stars Purchase recommendation
I was unvited by to write a review of my purchase of E.O. Wilson's "The Diversity of Life". I would like to limit it to the following comment. Read more
Published on 15 April 2012 by ChrisBauer
5.0 out of 5 stars got me interested in biology
This is a fascinating book. It needs some concentration, but it is very informative. It has made me love biology. Great stuff.
Published on 27 Nov 2011 by fergus
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative and very enjoyable
As a zoology degree student this has been extremely helpful in helping me gain further insight into ecology and the amazing diversity in the animal and plant kingdom. Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2011 by Jade
5.0 out of 5 stars A warning, and a celebration of all things living
Edward Wilson, if you haven't come across him yet, is one of the world's foremost biologists, but he writes with an elegance and fluency that belies his scientific background. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2010 by Jeremy Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book
An important book for anyone who wants to know about the diversity of life, why it matters, the impact of human activity upon it and how we can protect it. Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2007 by Sir Barnabas
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