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Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes Paperback – 28 Nov 1984

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co. (28 Nov. 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393302008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393302004
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 2.5 x 7.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,650,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"As witty as he is learned, Gould has a born essayist's ability to evoke the general out of fascinating particulars... He is a thinker and writer as central to our times as any whose name comes to mind... Whether he is explaining how zebras get their stripes, [or] why it is fallacious to assume that extinction means biological 'failure' ... Gould's passion for truth an generosity of spirit make him one of nature's true wonders." -- Gene Lyons "Lively and fascinating... [Gould] writes beautifully about science and the wonders of nature." -- Tracy Kidder "Delectable... A happy evolutionary tour de force. Gould is a true natural philosopher in the grand tradition of the Enlightenment. Read, learn, and enjoy." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON, never known for egalitarian perspectives, had this to say about the relative merit of the sexes: Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, matched with mine, Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. S. Braterman on 11 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is classic, mid-period, Gould, as fresh and relevant as ever. Evolution works in curious, roundabout, ways, and the workings of our minds as we investigate it are even curiouser. The evidence for evolution is not in its perfection, but in its functionless by-products, like the dormant DNA that reminds us that the hen's ancestor had teeth. Nor are family relationships as simple as they seem; I came back to this book after many years for its essays "What, if anything, is a zebra?", and "How the zebra got its stripes", still vibrant topics in phylogeny and the study of development, and returned to the current literature on these subjects with deepened insight.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christina Martin on 10 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely worderfull book about the quirky side of nature, the oddities that when you look closely enough make perfect sense. Natural history written in the way that Gould writes it is immensely more interesting than any old textbook. The short essay format is also a plus point.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
What, if anything, is a zebra? 9 Jan. 2007
By D. Cloyce Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Like any collection of essays republished from other sources, this one--the third of many such anthologies from Gould--is a mixed bag. All but three pieces originally appeared in "Natural History" magazine, but Gould updated many of them with postscripts incorporating responses to and criticism of the original articles.

The range, as always, is impressive: tours of the controversies and unforgettable characters that pepper the history of science; examinations of the politics of science (which, sadly, hasn't changed much in 25 years) and the threats to teaching posed by creationists; explorations in paleontology and evolutionary theory; and some dabblings in "hard science" that might leave a few folks scratching their heads. There's even a typical Gould curio reminiscent of his essays on baseball: an analysis of the inexorable trend towards smaller Hershey bars. The only truly outdated essays are those which focus on genetics and the discovery of the structure of DNA.

For me, the defining moment in this collection is the question posed by Gould: "Is a zebra a white animal with black stripes or a black animal with white stripes?" It's really a damn good question, but to be honest, such a problem would never have crossed my mind. (I feel doltish for not even knowing that there are three species of zebra.) Gould's certainly not the first biologist to consider the issue, but he's surely the first to offer for the everyday reader not one, but three easily understood and (one might even say) riveting essays on "striped horses." And that's just what makes Gould's works so worthwhile: a charming combination of his fascination with history, his inquisitiveness about nature (especially in areas "outside his expertise"), and the patience needed to write clearly about such matters for the non-scientist.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
As always, Remarkable 3 Aug. 2003
By Sergio A. Salazar Lozano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I admit it, I'm a Stephen Jay Gould fan. As always, it was delightful to lay back and read each and every one of the essays in this book. This is not just science, this is reason, objectivity, philosophy and history (at least). Stephen's prose is remarkable, his style is so unique, something in between nineteen and twentieth century. Although this book is not new, Stephen is profound in every aspect and so meticulous in his work that ten or twenty years from now you can read it again and still learn something from it. If you like science, evolution or biology, even if you just enjoy good, logical and profound arguments, I guarantee you will like this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
hangs in there even in 2010 28 Nov. 2010
By T. Burket - Published on Amazon.com
The essays, now pushing 30 years old in their original appearances, still make for (mostly) interesting reading, or in my case, listening. Gould's range is far and his writing is clear and effective. Don't be scared off simply by the passage of time, as his essays on Darwin and evolutionary theory serve as excellent history and summations. Variations on evolution and natural selection are easily the dominant topic for this collection. Gould makes a nice distinction several times between evolution as a scientific fact and natural selection as one of the mechanisms for evolution, commenting on how often people combine the two.

Some of the more technical essays about specific creatures went on a bit long, and some readers might be slightly disturbed by Gould's occasional steps into more political topics. However, given that the biggest such topic involves "creationism" (early in the days of the use of "intelligent design"), a typical reader probably won't mind the force of his argument. The slight detour on the Scopes trial was welcome.

I had, in fact, thought both about the colors of the zebra and the trends in candy bars, food cans, packages of diapers, and so on. The former topic touched two essays, with the question really a hook for both that specific question and meanderings elsewhere. The latter was an amusing break that even the most non-mathematical reader could understand.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
... book itself is very small but Gould's writing is excellent. His indirect lessons about the concepts of evolution ... 7 Oct. 2014
By A. Brennan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book itself is very small but Gould's writing is excellent. His indirect lessons about the concepts of evolution are interesting and well presented. Anyone who is even mildly interested in science would enjoy this.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
My first, and still my favorite 4 Mar. 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first of the many of Gould's book that I have read over the years. I remember being captivated by by essays' titles and by the book description on the back cover of a cheap Italian translation published by Feltrinelli. I think it was the summer of 1990, just before starting college, and I recall reading this book while on vacation with my grandparents in the Alps. You get the idea. A wonderful book for a wonderful summer, and maybe that's why this remains to date my favorite Gould.

Interesting, full of surprises, readable and at the same time deep and well-researched (unlike some scientists-writers, Gould rarely if ever "dumbed down" a topic). Also, this being one of his early books, Gould was not yet (let me say it) as self-obsessed and self-adoring as in all his last writings, which I find a little bit obnoxious.

The chapters on Theilard de Chardin read like a mystery thriller. The chapters on the "monkey trial" should be compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in the evolution-creationism-ID debate. The section on the big impact of small mutations are brilliant and among the most interesting essays I have read. After this book, I was hooked and ended up reading most of Gould's popular science, but this still remains my favorite collection. Highly highly recommended to anyone with an interest in biology/zoology/evolution. These essays will keep you usefully entertained for hours, and will make your brain happy.
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