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Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution [Paperback]

Theodore W. Pietsch
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £22.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 May 2013

For the past 450 years, tree-like branching diagrams have been created to show the complex and surprising interrelationships of organisms, both living and fossil, from viruses and bacteria to birds and mammals. This stunning book celebrates the manifest beauty, intrinsic interest, and human ingenuity of these exquisite trees of life.

Theodore W. Pietsch has chosen 230 trees of life—from among thousands of possible contenders—dating from the sixteenth century to the present day. His arrangement gives readers a visual sense of the historical development of these diagrams and shows how, in Darwin’s words, "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

Pietsch’s brief, accessible prose accompanies the diverse trees to fully reveal the engrossing history of human theories of evolution. Over the centuries, trees of life appeared in a wide variety of forms; some were revered as iconic while others incited intense controversy. The earliest examples were meant to portray the imagined temporal order in which God created life on Earth. More recent scientific trees represent hypothetical histories of life.

Never before has the full spectrum of trees of life been brought together in a single volume. Pietsch has spent decades collecting and researching the origin and meaning of these evolutionary trees and presents a visually breathtaking and intellectually brilliant history of the form.


Product details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421411857
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421411859
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 20.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,271,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

For those with an interest in the history of evolution.

(Birdbooker Report)

Trees of Life is the sort of book that instantly fascinates... This exemplary work is an important contribution to the history of evolution.

(Taxon)

Better than any work before it... Anyone interested in the history of phylogenetics and the study of evolutionary relationships should certainly pick up this wonderful book. In a field advancing as quickly as systematic biology, it is nice to look back at the past once in a while.

(Prosanta Chakrabarty Systematic Biology)

Trees of Life is a beautiful book, and the diversity of beautiful images within its pages should be of interest to historians of science, biologists, folks working at the intersection of science and art, and, honestly, anyone with a genuine interest in science and the study of the natural world. This is a taxonomy of trees of life, if you will.

(Michael Barton Dispersal of Darwin)

Evolution is often visualized as a branching tree, with the format depending on what the author desires to show. Evolutionary biologist Pietsch is more interested in the history of such trees as art.

(Choice)

With the concept of evolution now often iconified to the point of misrepresentation, Trees of Life reminds us that both the idea and its representation were—and are—fluid, debated, and reconstructed.

(Camillia Matuk Science)

Trees of Life commemorates the tree as a visual representation of life; science buffs will revel in this dazzling forest of transformation.

(Jen Forbus Shelf Awareness)

Looking at the ways images of trees have been used to depict the relationships between organisms over the past five centuries, Pietsch explores how the visual history of these 'trees of life' reveals changing human understandings of evolution.

(ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment)

Pietsch, an evolutionary biologist, gathers together and explains more than 200 'tree of life' diagrams going back 450 years. These branch-like drawings—some simple, some incredibly elaborate—were made to illustrate interconnectedness between organisms and the process of evolution. They can be seen as scientific documents, artistic renderings, or both.

(John Lewis Baltimore Magazine)

The book testifies to Pietsch's encyclopaedic ambition and his unmistakable passion for the subject. His collection is rich and wide in scope... Because of this diversity, the book provides a very stimulating overview of (Western) attempts to make graphic sense of life and its history on this planet. It has no rival as an introduction to the subject.

(Nils Petter Hellstrom Journal Archives of Natural History)

Of interest primarily to naturalists and historians, the collection of symbolic relationships presents a unique evolutionary transition through time.

(Aron Row San Francisco Book Review)

Systematics and the exact tracing of evolutionary pathways increasingly continue their renaissance as a major enterprise of biology. Theodore W. Pietsch's Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution is an excellent way to study and think about the historical process that is under way.

(E. O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

Notable in this work is a nice balance between text and graphics... the book is an excellent source not only of the diversity of diagrams, but of the meaning behind each.

(E.O. Wiley Quarterly Review of Biology)

A luminous book... For classroom use, the brevity and simplicity of the introductory remarks will serve instructors who wish to teach these images' and their authors' significance to the history of biology and the history of scientific illustration. Biologists, historians of science, scholars interested in the intersections between art and design and science will find an abundance of images and wise commentary that reveals new details with each reading.

(Christine Manganaro Journal of the History of Biology)

The author has given us a new insight into the varying approaches to evolutionary trees, and an essential source book for the history of evolutionary concepts.

(Gina Douglas Biological Journal of the Linnean Society)

From the Back Cover

For the past 450 years, tree-like branching diagrams have been created to show the complex and surprising interrelationships among organisms, both living and fossil, from viruses and bacteria to birds and mammals. This stunning book celebrates the manifest beauty, intrinsic interest, and human ingenuity of these exquisite trees of life.

Theodore W. Pietsch has chosen 230 trees of life dating from the sixteenth century to the present day. His arrangement gives readers a visual sense of the historical development of these diagrams and shows how, in Darwin’s words, "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

"With the concept of evolution now often iconified to the point of misrepresentation, Trees of Life reminds us that both the idea and its representation were—and are—fluid, debated, and reconstructed."— Science

" Trees of Life is a beautiful book, and the diversity of beautiful images within its pages should be of interest to historians of science, biologists, folks working at the intersection of science and art, and, honestly, anyone with a genuine interest in science and the study of the natural world. This is a taxonomy of trees of life, if you will."— The Dispersal of Darwin

"Better than any work before it... Anyone interested in the history of phylogenetics and the study of evolutionary relationships should certainly pick up this wonderful book. In a field advancing as quickly as systematic biology, it is nice to look back at the past once in a while."—Systematic Biology

" Trees of Life is the sort of book that instantly fascinates... This exemplary work is an important contribution to the history of evolution."— Taxon

"Looking at the ways images of trees have been used to depict the relationships between organisms over the past five centuries, Pietsch explores how the visual history of these 'trees of life' reveals changing human understandings of evolution."— ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "Look at the pictures" - that's about it 29 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very disappointing book. On the plus side, it's a decent assemblage of images of phylogenetic trees. But the reproductions generally are poor, many are too small to read detail, and the range is almost exclusively English language. It's all black and white on plain, matt paper, so nothing like a "coffee table" style artbook. This IDEA is a good one for an e-book, not a quality paperback.
The interpretation is awful, though the basic historical facts are sound. Most important, the first 1/4 of book insists (wrongly) that many images before 1840s are phylogenetic when they plainly are not - hierarchy is not phylogeny. The analysis seems to consist simply of saying "look at the lovely trees". (Make no mistake, some are fabulous; some presented here are really obscure, so it's good to see them out in the open.) But the academic study of visuality in science is miles and mile ahead of this. And art history has a massively long tradition of study on these lines. I was expecting some sort of thought above the straightforward act of pointing to pictures and telling me where they came from. The author describes the evolutionary tree as "iconic" but to an art historian or student of aesthetics, that's equivalent to describing a painting as "pretty" or a photo as "meaningful". Seriously, you've got to do better to justify the purchase price, the paper, and the effort. A missed opportunity.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A taxonomy of trees 11 July 2012
By Michael D. Barton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Any mention of a tree of life is likely to stir up the well-used image of Darwin's tree of life sketch from 1837 (from his Notebook B on transmutation). Writing "I think" above his sketch, Darwin likened the evolutionary relationships between species like that of branches on a tree (common ancestry from a central trunk, continued diversity resulting from many new branches forming, extinction when some branches cease). He wrote in On the Origin of Species (1859): "The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth... As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications." Darwin also included an evolutionary tree in Origin, and in his transmutation notebook reflected on his studies of coral: "The tree of life should perhaps be called the coral of life, base of branches dead; so that passages cannot be seen. -- this again offers contradiction to constant succession of germs in progress no only makes it excessively complicated" (Notebook B).

The idea of branching as characteristic of relationships of organisms did not begin - nor end - with Darwin. While it has been argued that Darwin's was indeed the first to show evolutionary relationships, taxonomic and developmental trees appeared long before.

This is the subject of a new book by Theodore W. Pietsch, Professor of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and Curator of Fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (both in Seattle). In Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution (John Hopkins, 2012), Pietsch shares and provides context for 230 trees of life and similar diagrams (bracketed tables, maps, webs/networks, and other visual representations of the relationships between organisms). They cover the sixteenth century to the present, and range from depictions of single groups of organisms (types of plants, fish, birds, etc.) to larger categories (kingdoms, phyla, or the whole of life on earth). This book is largely, as he notes in the Preface, "a celebration of the manifest beauty, intrinsic interest, and human ingenuity revealed in trees of life through time" (ix).

The book is organized chronologically, while some chapters deviate from this because of how a particular tree(s) fit into Pietsch's categories. Among categories defined by botany, the rule of five, time periods, cladistics, molecular biology, and universality, some chapters are devoted to the trees of individual scientists: Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, Alfred S. Romer, and William K. Gregory. The chapter entitled "The First Evolutionary Tree" deals with the work of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Pietsch, as does Mark Wheelis (2009), claim that Lamarck's 1809 tree (or, as he called it, "table, serving to demonstrate the origin of the different animals") from Philosophie zoologique predates Darwin's as the first representing an evolutionary framework. Others disagree, such as biologist Mark Pallen, but I guess that's what makes this book such a useful resource. It brings together many examples of images of interest to researchers, and provides a worthy bibliography and set of notes for those needing to look deeper into the sources of these images. Each chapter also includes a several page commentary by Pietsch about the images representing that chapter.

Trees of Life is a beautiful book, and the diversity of beautiful images within its pages should be of interest to historians of science, biologists, folks working at the intersection of science and art, and, honestly, anyone with a genuine interest in science and the study of the natural world. This is a taxonomy of trees of life, if you will.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good 17 Jan 2013
By Mpino - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Interesting text, nice graphics, very attractive in general. It is definetely a good acquisition for my personal library at home.
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