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The Symbiotic Planet: A New Look At Evolution (Science Masters) Hardcover – 30 Nov 1998


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st edition (30 Nov. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029781740X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297817406
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 1.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 830,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Lynn Margulis is an eminent American biologist, distinguished professor at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and prolific author of accessible and readable books about life, the biology of sex, microbes and Gaia. The Symbiotic Planet brings together her lifetime work on two major themes, "symbiotic theory" and "Gaia". and sets them in the context of planetary evolution. The book is published as one of a series of "Science Masters", of which a dozen have been published. They are designed to help the popularisation of science and are written by established and well-known scientists. The authors, such as Richard Dawkins (River out of Eden), Richard Leakey (The Origin of Humankind) and Lynn Margulis are also known for they ability to communicate their science.

Margulis has spent much of her professional life researching the microcosm of the smallest organisms on Earth, how they evolved and relate to one another. Symbiosis takes place where different species live in close physical contact. Margulis claims: "we are symbionts on a symbiotic planet, and ... we can find symbiosis everywhere". Indeed it is much more prevalent than most people realise, even within our own bodies: "our guts and eyelashes (are) festooned with bacterial and animal symbionts".

Animal and plant cells originated through symbiosis with the permanent incorporation of bacteria in cells as plastids and mitochondria. Margulis has argued that death and sex are essentially linked processes which originated within certain protists. Here she recounts how her ideas developed and how she came to embrace Jim Lovelock's Gaia theory, not any of the cosy or whimsical variants but the one in which "Gaia, a tough bitch, is not at all threatened by humans".

Some of Lynn Margulis's ideas are controversial and, as she recounts here, she has had to struggle at times to be taken seriously, but like Gaia she is remarkably resilient. As this and her other books show, Margulis can well argue her case with laudable conviction. --Douglas Palmer

Book Description

A distinguished microbiologist explains the importance of symbiosis - where different organisms contribute to each other's support - and how this is changing our view of life on Earth

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 24 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
Some years ago, Margulis promoted a new concept in evolution. Complex life developed from the merging of microbial forms of life. Elements of the cell such as mitochondria, chloroplasts and other organelles came from small, simple lifeforms invading larger cells. The idea was a long time in gaining acceptance, but is now part of conventional evolutionary texts. In this book, she expands her earlier work with some accounts of her life as a scientist and wife of Carl Sagan. She also goes beyond her earlier work to advance a new thesis on the accelerator of evolution - sex. While many of her ideas are presented in more detail elsewhere, this book is a good, quick introduction to fuller accounts of her thinking.
Margulis is an innovator - forceful in imparting her ideas. She portrays herself as a rebel from early in her career, arguing here that she was sceptical of "genes in the nucleus determin[ing] all the characteristics of plants and animals." Her misgivings received scant support, however, without a replacement thesis. She found one in symbiosis - the association of multiple organisms. It took many years of investigation, including initial rejection of her attempts to publish, before the idea of SET [Serial Endoymbiosis Theory] found acceptance. So much attention had been focussed the DNA in the cell nucleus that organelle structure and function had been essentially overlooked as irrelevant. That these organelles might have been independent organisms at some point was too novel. Her account of the struggle to gain recognition is related as one of dogged persistence, nearly devoid of outside support .
Moving through an interesting discussion of life's origins, she dismisses the notion that forms of nucleic acids arose before simple cells.
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By Steve Benner TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
Lynn Margulis is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a prolific author, writing mostly about the early stages of life on Earth, particularly with regard to microbial evolution and its contribution to organelle heredity in multicellular organisms. Throughout her long career she has never ceased to challenge the views of the scientific establishment of the day, doggedly persuing every avenue of enquiry and bringing common sense thinking (invariably backed up by good, solid scientific investigation) to a number of controversial fields of study.

She is probably best known for her theory of serial endosymbiosis -- the process of successive fusion of genomes through the formation of countless, novel symbiotic consortia of microbial organisms. Since its formulation over 40 years ago, this theory has always threatened the central tenet of neo-Darwinism -- that genome alteration occurs principally through random mutation -- and getting it accepted has been a long, up-hill struggle. Lesser mortals would probably have given up trying long ago. Professor Margulis has also worked for many years on the development of a 5-kingdom taxomony which has eventually been accepted as a more appropriate replacement for the previously long established (but hopelessly inadequate) division of all living things into just plants and animals. One cornerstone of that work is the recognition of the place of microbes (bacteria and protoctists) as well as fungae as living kingdoms every bit as distinct as plants and animals, and occupying crucial places in the evolutionary scheme of things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nana Li on 28 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
i read the Chinese version in school. I can not forget it so I bought the English one for the second time reading. Good enough to save one copy forever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D Lester on 6 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not just a new look at Evolution, but a new look at 'life' on this planet. A great read and highly recommended.
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