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For Love of Insects [Paperback]

Thomas Eisner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Oct 2005
Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Science Book Winner of the 2003 Professional/Scholarly Publishing Award of the Association of American Publishers, Biology Category Imagine beetles ejecting defensive sprays as hot as boiling water; female moths holding their mates for ransom; caterpillars disguising themselves as flowers by fastening petals to their bodies; termites emitting a viscous glue to rally fellow soldiers - and you will have entered an insect world once beyond imagining, a world observed and described down to its tiniest astonishing detail by Thomas Eisner.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (4 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674018273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674018273
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 20 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 878,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Although insects are not usually the stars of popular-science writing, this engaging look at how one scientist studies their lives may add them to the most-requested lists of science- and animal-loving readers. -- Nancy Bent Booklist 20031115 For Love of Insects is especially valuable because it explains the steps missing from the research reports in Nature and Science: [Eisner] tells the story from first noticing a bug on a walk in the woods, through experiments and analytical chemistry, to a final understanding of each phenomenon...For Love of Insects is a fascinating introduction to a world we poor humans--barely able to detect most chemicals--seldom notice. -- Jonathan Beard New Scientist 20031101 [Eisner's] new book is a personal memoir of a lifetime in science, engagingly written and stunningly illustrated with photographs of insects doing astonishing things...What makes Eisner a world-class entomologist is not access to million-dollar scientific instruments, but a mind that never stops asking 'Why?' -- Chet Raymo Boston Globe 20031209 This is one of the best nature titles in the last several years. -- Kim Long Bloomsbury Review 20040101 Prepare to be amazed. Brimming with enthusiasm, Eisner reveals a world of unbelievable majesty and complexity in the simplest of insects. The photographs alone are worth the price of the book, but the text crackles with the electricity of a brilliant genius at work, as Eisner leads the reader from simple observation to major scientific breakthrough. In fact this book should be required reading for every biology student because it illuminates the basic principle that passion and curiosity are the twin pillars of all great science. -- David Lukas Los Angeles Times 20040120 Have you ever been squirted by a vinegaroon? Spent a night alone outdoors in the Arizona desert? Staged a pitched battle between ants and termites? (The termites took heavy losses, but the ants retreated under fire from their biological weapon, a chemical spray containing complex diterpenes.) If the answer's no, enlarge your horizons by reading Thomas Eisner's For Love of Insects...A fascinating and highly unusual book...These and many more of nature's mysteries are unraveled in Eisner's inimitable style--charmingly modest, brimming with enthusiasm and shot with flashes of endearing naivete...Anyone fascinated by the endless diversity of nature, who prefers quirky fact to highfalutin theory or who simply likes to share someone else's passion, will find this book a delight. -- Derek Bickerton New York Times Book Review 20040208 In his new book, For Love of Insects, Eisner describes a lifetime of field observations and laboratory experiments on an amazingly broad sampling of the class Insecta, together with the rest of the terrestrial arthropods. Along the way, he is a font of information about the workings of myriad biological adaptations. Together with the book's exquisite and detailed photographs...Eisner's text is the research retrospective of a self-described 'incorrigible entomophile'--one of the world's most visible and admired entomologists. -- Robert L. Smith Natural History 20040301 Not only does [Eisner] describe discoveries with a richness and enthusiasm long absent from contemporary literature (where every word counts and is counted), but he interlaces the chronology of his exploration with relevant personal reflections. The resulting bildungsroman portrays the scientist as hunter in hot pursuit of new findings...With its vivid descriptions and beautiful images of insect life, this book should entice the interest and support of readers from all backgrounds. -- Ian T. Baldwin Science 20040213 The book is well written and beautifully illustrated with colour photographs, the majority taken by the author...Throughout the text one is reminded of the pleasure that the author derives from discovery. Anyone reading this book will themselves embark upon a journey of discovery and come to share, if only at arm's length, Tom's love of insect's and the wonders of nature. -- Jeremy N. McNeil Nature 20040325 The findings [Eisner] describes are intriguing--all the more so in that they provide the scaffolding on which we see at work the mind of one of our most distinguished scientists and naturalists. Exquisitely illustrated with photographs, most taken by Eisner, who is widely admired for his photography, the book is written in a style that is conversational, witty and graphic. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to read. Scientific American 20040501 An absorbing story of Eisner's career as a professor of chemical ecology (a discipline he helped found), interwoven with a passionate celebration of his subject--the lowly insect--and countless did-you-know's from the world of entomology. New York Times Book Review 20040606 This is the sort of book that you want to read out loud to complete strangers. Rarely has the manic curiosity of a naturalist's scientific mind been so clearly revealed as in this journey with Thomas Eisner...As the title suggests, this book reflects sheer enthusiasm and passion for bugs, and the reading of it is like a wild ride with a brilliant researcher...For Love of Insects marvelously captures the spirit of the naturalist mind and suggests how we might view the natural world with renewed curiosity and excitement. If this book could be required reading for biology students, the result would be a new generation of eager, brilliant naturalists. -- David Lukas Orion 20040701 Eisner's work, summarized for the first time in this elegantly written and beautifully illustrated book, presents a coherent picture of a world little known even to many biologists. -- William A. Shear American Scientist 20040701 After 45 years at Cornell [Eisner] has written a fascinating book of stories about some of his most interesting discoveries and how they came about. One can read about bombardier beetles that blast their attackers with hot benzoquinones, millipedes that tie up marauding ants with minute grappling hooks, and sundew plants that capture their insect prey with sticky secretions...This very readable book has a great number of outstanding color and black-and-white photographs that are themselves remarkably interesting. -- R. C. Graves Choice 20040601 Eisner's book compels and fascinates at a variety of levels. It probes the ways in which insects use chemicals, and documents the ways in which an investigator poses the questions and teases out the answers...He tells his stories in the most accessible way...The sheer elegance of his approach is spellbinding. And the photographs that document his explorations are remarkable--every experimental tale here is beautifully illustrated. -- Gaden S. Robinson Times Literary Supplement 20040730 At the start of his career as a professional biologist, Thomas Eisner noticed that hardly anyone had looked at how insects defend themselves against the many animals that want to eat them...Over the next 50 years, his work as a kind of 'chemical biologist' opened up a miniature world brimming with subterfuge and weaponry, some subtle, some simply vicious. This book takes us through his most exciting discoveries and reveals a lot about the man behind one of the more famous names in biology. BBC Wildlife 20040901 If you want to understand what drives a man to spend his entire adult life researching an apparently obscure topic, you should read For Love of Insects. In this inspiring book, Thomas Eisner recalls his colleagues and his insect subjects with genuine affection, and the effect on the reader is equally warming...Fascinating stories of how biological mysteries were unravelled by painstaking observation and experimentation. -- Graham Elmes Times Higher Education Supplement 20041126 This book is simultaneously a fascinating exploration of insect defenses and a personal account of the process of scientific discovery. Eisner relates...intricate stories of arthropod defense. While doing so he also gives the reader an understanding of how scientists go through the process of observing phenomena, developing and testing hypothesis, and finally achieving an understanding of what's going on...Eisner has produced a book that is especially a delight for the insect enthusiast, but also should interest the general naturalist. -- Cliff Fairweather Audubon Naturalist News 20040701 The reviewer is well known for his dislike of the self-congratulatory style of presentation that is a feature of many books from "across the pond"; he also has little knowledge if, and even less interest in, the New World entomological fauna. How surprising that he actually liked this well-illustrated book by Thomas Eisner! Dr. Eisner is Professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University and a great deal of this book reveals this fact. However, the reader should not be put off by this fact and I suggest that the style of the book actually works in the favour of the layman understanding some of the more complex matters presented...This book is well presented...and at just under twenty quid [$29.95] it is not a bad price by modern standards. Worth adding to the letter to Santa Claus. Entomologist's Record A world-renowned expert on insects takes the reader on a fascinating journey into his world in this lively and engrossing book. Each of the ten chapters tells a different story of entomological mystery and imaginative research, illustrated with stunning photography and spanning much of a productive research career. An entertaining read highly recommended! Southeastern Naturalist For Love of Insects contains enough depth and description to engage even the most dedicated entomologist, yet because the material is presented in Eisner's engaging style, the reader never gets lost in a maze of scientific jargon...I think it would be hard for any reader to come away from this book without sharing in the author's sense of wonder at the amazing ways in which insects have evolved to defend, mate, and live. With fewer and fewer people engaged in the study of biology and natural history, this book could serve to explain to nonscientists why insects deserve respect. -- Scott Hoffman Black BioScience Apart from being a most enjoyable read for an entomologist...

About the Author

Thomas Eisner is Schurman Professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. His film Secret Weapons won the Grand Award at the New York Film Festival and was named Best Science Film by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bug shots 9 Nov 2004
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
Once, we were warned: "Don't fool with Mother Nature". It's our good fortune that Thomas Eisner ignores that counsel. Not only does he disdain it, he turns it on its head. He probes, he directs, he examines and he dissects. When he's done, he sits down to convey to us what he's found. Between what he's learned and how he explains it to us, we are the richer for his refuting the old admonition. Mother Nature, while exposed in this book, is hardly violated. Instead, she parades her wonders before us, dazzling us with the powers of her miniscule offspring. In a book about little beasts, Eisner has triumphed in adding a new dimension to the world we inhabit.
Eisner was one of those lucky children whose parents didn't rein him in. As refugees, they settled in Uruguay where young Thomas was able to wander in fields and jungles. He developed an affinity for insects, particularly beetles. Haldane's quip, "an inordinant fondness for beetles" is entirely apt. Early in his academic career in the US, he and E.O. Wilson made a "bug collecting tour" around the "Lower 48". Who better to partner with in such a quest? From those early explorations, Eisner has been often in the field, observing, collecting, testing. Although many of the insects resented his presence, they continued to perform for him.
The performance is a symphony of chemicals. Many insects display riotous colour schemes. This would seem suicidal in a world where birds, unlike mammal predators, have good chromatic vision. Yet most of the insect clowns pass through life unmolested. Eisner explains that many insects are walking chem labs. Various chemicals reside in glands - chemicals that send birds tumbling, toads vigorously spitting out prey, or sending other insects packing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A work of love, indeed 9 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful narrative about the discovery of the complexities of bug life. Besides the high quality photos and illustrations, what makes this book a true marvel is the down-to-earth narrative of how discoveries were made, how ideas were born and facts established. If you are intrigued by these little creatures that surround us, you can't miss this one. If you are not, you risk becoming an adept. All in all an endearing, rigorous description of the messy process of discovery.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can be the fly on the wall watching the fly. 19 Dec 2003
By Jared Wolfhope - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Imagine beetles ejecting defensive sprays as hot as boiling water; female moths holding their mates for ransom; caterpillars disguising themselves as flowers by fastening petals to their bodies; termites emitting a viscous glue to rally fellow soldiers--and you will have entered an insect world once beyond imagining, a world observed and described down to its tiniest astonishing detail by Thomas Eisner. The story of a lifetime of such minute explorations, For Love of Insects celebrates the small creatures that have emerged triumphant on the planet, the beneficiaries of extraordinary evolutionary inventiveness and unparalleled reproductive capacity.
To understand the success of insects is to appreciate our own shortcomings, Eisner tells us, but never has a reckoning been such a pleasure. Recounting exploits and discoveries in his lab at Cornell and in the field in Uruguay, Australia, Panama, Europe, and North America, Eisner time and again demonstrates how inquiry into the survival strategies of an insect leads to clarifications beyond the expected; insects are revealed as masters of achievement, forms of life worthy of study and respect from even the most recalcitrant entomophobe. Filled with descriptions of his ingenious experiments and illustrated with photographs unmatched for their combination of scientific content and delicate beauty, Eisner's book makes readers participants in the grand adventure of discovery on a scale infinitesimally small, and infinitely surprising.
NOT ALL WORDS. PICTURES TOO !!!!!!!
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reviews 31 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For Love of Insects
Thomas Eisner
Foreword by Edward O. Wilson
Although insects are not usually the stars of popular-science writing, this engaging look at how one scientist studies their lives may add them to the most-requested lists of science- and animal-loving readers.
--Nancy Bent, Booklist
For Love of Insects is especially valuable because it explains the steps missing from the research reports in Nature and Science: [Eisner] tells the story from first noticing a bug on a walk in the woods, through experiments and analytical chemistry, to a final understanding of each phenomenon...For Love of Insects is a fascinating introduction to a world we poor humans--barely able to detect most chemicals--seldom notice.
--Jonathan Beard, New Scientist [UK]
[Eisner's] new book is a personal memoir of a lifetime in science, engagingly written and stunningly illustrated with photographs of insects doing astonishing things...What makes Eisner a world-class entomologist is not access to million-dollar scientific instruments, but a mind that never stops asking 'Why?'
--Chet Raymo, Boston Globe
This is one of the best nature titles in the last several years.
--Kim Long, Bloomsbury Review
[P]repare to be amazed. Brimming with enthusiasm, Eisner reveals a world of unbelievable majesty and complexity in the simplest of insects. The photographs alone are worth the price of the book, but the text crackles with the electricity of a brilliant genius at work, as Eisner leads the reader from simple observation to major scientific breakthrough. In fact this book should be required reading for every biology student because it illuminates the basic principle that passion and curiosity are the twin pillars of all great science.
--David Lukas, Los Angeles Times
The world has eagerly awaited these enchanting tales of insect life, brimming with discovery, insight, and wry humor. They're a master entomologist's masterwork. The photographs are also extraordinary, both illuminating and exquisitely beautiful.
--Diane Ackerman, Cornell University
I don't know whether I like the text or the photographs of For Love of Insects better. The former is brilliant, the product of the dean of chemical ecology and a world-renowned expert on insects. The latter are spectacular, the work of an outstanding photographer -- once again Tom Eisner. No naturalist or natural scientist will want to be without this book. Indeed, if everyone would take the time to read it and look at the amazing pictures our society would benefit greatly from an enhanced appreciation of the insect world.
--Paul Ehrlich, President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University
Love of insects? Hell, that's barely the half of it! Better Tom Eisner had called this book Love of Life and the Lively of progeny and all provenance! With boundless verve and grace and marvel and delight, Tom Eisner proves himself, across these dazzling pages, to be one of the all-time great biophiliacs. Ah, the blessing, for the rest of us, to be alive alongside him!
--Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities and author of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder
There are few books which present the fullness of a life in science as powerfully, as modestly, and as enchantingly as this one. The excitement of Tom Eisner's fundamental investigations are mingled with vivid descriptions of his many other loves and enthusiasms--for music and literature no less than for the natural world--in seamless and beautiful prose. For Love of Insects is not only a delight to read, but, with its amazing photographs, a visual feast, too.
--Oliver Sachs, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 20 Feb 2006
By rigersa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
VERY interesting to read, does not condescend but at the same time does not leave the layperson baffled. Well done. Enthusiastically written and modular--if you skip chapters no impact.

HIGHLY recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in scientific method, insects, and biological sciences.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whether You Like Bugs Or Not! 27 Nov 2004
By Matthew T. Close - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I recommend this book to anyone interested in nature, whether they are the highly-trained professional biologist, the aspiring naturalist, or even the person who likes to watch what goes on in their back yard. Eisner's book unlocks some of the best kept secrets of the insect world, and it does so in a way that is easy to understand and highly enjoyable to read. I previously had no interest in studying insects (my professional interest generally include vertebrates), but this book has helped me to gain an appreciation for them. I could not put it down!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Love of Eisner 4 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For those people lucky enough to meet Dr. Eisner, they will know that he is a very intelligent, very humble man. Dr. Eisner has devoted his life to studying insects, and his passion comes across in his words and his photographs. It is difficult to get this man to speak about his accomplishments, and this book gives the reader a wonderful opportunity to get to know one of the greatest biologists of this century, and learn why he has earned that title.
The photographs are exquisite and they alone are worth buying the book. The stories are fascinating tales that seem like they should be science fiction, yet they are science fact. An enlightening book for those that fear "creepy crawlies" as to why these creatures deserve respect, even if they are still worth fearing.
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