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Triumph of the Fungi: A Rotten History [Hardcover]

Nicholas P. Money
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £17.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

21 Sep 2006
This book is concerned with the most devastating fungal diseases in history. These are the plagues of trees and crop plants, caused by invisible spores that have reshaped entire landscapes and decimated human populations. The Triumph of the Fungi focuses on the fascinating biology of the well- and lesser-known diseases, and also tells the stories of the scientists involved in their study, and of the people directly impacted by the loss of forest trees like the chestnut, and cash crops such as coffee and cacao. In a surprisingly brief time, human knowledge of the fungi that infect plants has evolved from Biblical superstition, to the recognition of the true nature of plant disease, and, more recently, to a sense of awe for the sophistication of these microbes. The crucial issue of human culpability in these fungal epidemics is addressed in the books closing chapter.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (21 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019518971X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195189711
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 907,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Welcome to my book page. I'm a 51-year-old, breathtakingly attractive, Anglo-American author of a quintet of books on fungi and other microorganisms, a forthcoming novel ("The Diary of Bartholomew Leach, Professor of Natural Philosophy"), and several works-in-progress. A handful of unpublished writings are available on nikmoney.com. My work is defined by my love of science and belief in its power to make sense of life, the universe, and everything else.

Product Description

Review

"Money writes in an easy and pleasant fashion with strong personal opinions; he essentially provides a one-on-one colloquy."--The Quarterly Review of Biology"It is a seriously good read, packed with interesting and unexpected asides and notes, so you never quite know what to expect-enthusiasm and excitement exude from every page... This is a book all mycologists should read, and one that should be compulsory in plant pathology courses." --MycologicalResearch"Biologists and the scientifically informed public will benefit from the opportunity to learn about the classic fungal diseases of plants in a book written in an enjoyable, often witty style. ... Money uses colorful language in explaining much of the intricate biology of fungi; he is scientifically accurate and serious when appropriate." --Choice"The book rewards its readers-including those who begin the book with little interest in fungi-by focusing on plants with obvious importance to people (chestnut and elm trees; cacao, coffee and rubber plants; potatoes, corn and wheat) and by embedding lessons about fungal biology in stories peppered with memorable detail." --American Scientist"A first rate scholar and historian of plant pathology, Money is an able raconteur."-- ycologist's Bookshelf

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manifesto against monocultures 4 Mar 2007
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
Apart from some strained attempts at humour, starting with the subtitle, Nicholas Money has produced an excellent book. The book is a well-organised and expressively written presentation of how various fungi [and their relations] have and are assaulting valuable trees and crops around the planet. With excellent graphics to support the text, the author describes how fungal infections have attacked decorative or lumber tree species, such as the chestnut and jarrah, crop plants like coffee, potatoes and rubber. He explains how the infections were detected and investigated by various researchers and what steps have been taken to curb or eliminate the infestation. The latter point is the one that should prompt the reader's close attention.

Although to many people, the blight causing the Irish Potato Famine may be the best known of fungal infections, Money opens with a story of the extermination of the American Chestnut. The account shows how little was known of fungi life cycles at the turn of the last century. Coping with the spreading infection was sporadic and ineffective. The spores, Money calculates, spread at the rate of over 100 metres per day. Small wonder governments failed to address the epidemic successfully. Control, in any case, would have meant an interdict on seed and seedling importation and transport, a multi-million dollar business. Such a draconian imposition would have raised the ire of business and governments alike. So we lost the chestnut. And the elm. The oaks and redwoods in California are presently under threat from a similar infestation. How can microbes be so destructive and apparently so immune to counter-measures?

Fungi are insidious in their invasive tactics and are talented breeders.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manifesto against monocultures 4 Mar 2007
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Apart from some strained attempts at humour, starting with the subtitle, Nicholas Money has produced an excellent book. The book is a well-organised and expressively written presentation of how various fungi [and their relations] have and are assaulting valuable trees and crops around the planet. With excellent graphics to support the text, the author describes how fungal infections have attacked decorative or lumber tree species, such as the chestnut and jarrah, crop plants like coffee, potatoes and rubber. He explains how the infections were detected and investigated by various researchers and what steps have been taken to curb or eliminate the infestation. The latter point is the one that should prompt the reader's close attention.

Although to many people, the blight causing the Irish Potato Famine may be the best known of fungal infections, Money opens with a story of the extermination of the American Chestnut. The account shows how little was known of fungi life cycles at the turn of the last century. Coping with the spreading infection was sporadic and ineffective. The spores, Money calculates, spread at the rate of over 100 metres per day. Small wonder governments failed to address the epidemic successfully. Control, in any case, would have meant an interdict on seed and seedling importation and transport, a multi-million dollar business. Such a draconian imposition would have raised the ire of business and governments alike. So we lost the chestnut. And the elm. The oaks and redwoods in California are presently under threat from a similar infestation. How can microbes be so destructive and apparently so immune to counter-measures?

Fungi are insidious in their invasive tactics and are talented breeders. Not only may a species have multiple mechanisms for breeding, many actually breed across species to create hybrids. These cross-bred organisms are highly adaptable to changing conditions. In fact, variations in environment may prompt species' mix to address the change. The breeding of multiple species may have immense impact, since some fungi may infect more than a hundred different types of plants. Money demonstrates mixed feelings as he describes some fungi as "the most exuberant swingers of the microbial world". It's an amazing capacity in such a simple organism. The genome of some species is nearly the size of a human's - but, far more importantly, the large genome imparts the ability to change rapidly as needed. This is one reason why so many fungi aren't "species-specific" in their infections.

In his descriptions of the historical efforts to identify the various rusts, blights, blasts and bunts attacking plants, Money recounts the efforts of investigators. There are the losers who went along almost fantastic idea tracks, attributing infections to malodorous mists and even moonlight. More rational researchers found ways of tracking infectors and how they operated. His first hero is Henry Murrill, who struggled to cope with the American chestnut epidemic that originated in the Bronx Zoo grounds in 1904. Rev. Miles Berkeley, working in limited circumstances, produced a landmark essay on the cause and effect of fungal infection of the "Irish" potato. Money's chapter heading, "Potato Soup" is telling as a descriptor.

Farther afield, Money admires the work achieved by a group of women in the Netherlands. Johanna Westerdijk, Christine Buisman and Marie Schwarz all made key contributions in revealing the mechanics of what is known as Dutch elm disease. Some of this work provided pointers to the evolutionary path of these fungi, information being applied elsewhere. Money's real praise, however, reaches further back in time in lauding two French scientific pioneers. Mathieu Tillet and Benedict Prevost proved to be the first to apply sound research methods in determining how plant disease operates. He would have this pair granted Nobel Prizes if the rules allowed posthumous awards. He notes that in France experimental research was held in low regard in their day. It was a serious uphill climb for them to gain recognition for their work.

It's not an uphill struggle to read this book, however. Money, who has published other works on mycology - the study of fungus - has an admirable way of making his point. The point here is that with fungi so adaptive, so easily disseminated over vast distances and so difficult to eradicate, the human species stands in some peril of indirectly succumbing to its effects. Wheat, maize, cocoa, coffee and rubber may join chestnuts in disappearing from our ken. These products are fundamental to our society, and more research must be undertaken to reveal how to address the problem. With so many of these crops being clones of earlier strains, their vulnerability is high, as is ours as a result. Read this and find out what you may be confronting. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh While You Learn 19 Feb 2008
By Stephanie Young - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Could a book on fungus make you laugh out loud? If the book in question is Dr. Nicholas Money's wonderful The Triumph of the Fungi, it certainly could. I laughed the whole way through, starting with the subtitle - A Rotten History, and learned so much along the way.

Each chapter of the book tackled a crop I take for granted, describing how it gained prominence, revealing who it enriched, and delving into what fungus destroyed or has the power to destroy it. Dr. Money tied in the historical aspects of each mycological disaster, making the book easy going, even for a nonscientist. As an English major, I only took two semesters of biology, so it would have been easy to lose me in the details. The numerous real-life examples, comparisons, quips, and allusions, however, made what would have been dry and inaccessible material in another author's hands fresh and fun.

Before this book, I knew nothing about how dangerous monocultures are and how at risk current farming practices make us. I had only a glimmer of how complex the life cycles of fungi are. I certainly didn't realize how impossible it is for fungicides to keep up with the rapidity of evolution in the fungal world. And now I do.

It took me months to read this book because I'm a teacher and, during the school year, I only get to read in 15-minute "Silent Reading" intervals. This kind of interrupted reading makes even great books take a loooong time to finish. To Dr. Money's credit, the book was so well written that even a sporadic reader found it easy to pick up where she left off and forge on. It's a rare book that entertains as well as it educates; Triumph of the Fungi does just that.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! 13 Dec 2006
By Michael F. Kuo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It is often said that the cockroaches will outlast us--but Nicholas Money's new book convinces me it will be the fungi who triumph in the end. This wonderful, terrifying book details the devastation wrought by the fungi and our feeble efforts to keep them at bay. How is it possible that a book with such a grim message is a page-turner that makes you laugh out-loud on nearly every page? Because this guy can WRITE. Money is the Steven Jay Gould of mycology, the Richard Dawkins of the fungi, and this book is fantastic.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book by Money 9 May 2013
By Laurence Chalem - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Presented as a collection of a few short stories, THE TRIUMPH OF THE FUNGI: A ROTTEN HISTORY is a good, accessible work of non-fiction written by a master of both fungi and prose. Dr. Money is such an engaging writer, that all his books are worth reading. This particular book focuses on the most deadly fungi, at least from the perspective of the organisms that are being killed. Indeed, according to some plants, these few fungi are mass murderers on the scale of many orders of magnitude greater that the worst of human murderers. Highly recommended... - lc
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Disapointment, too brief, little new info 25 July 2011
By D. J Stemke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a microbiologist I like to read connections to many of the areas that I study. This book, a series of essays on fungi is just 8 such chapters, and forgive the pun, they are mostly golden moldies. The Chestnut blight, Dutch Elms Disease, the Potato famine, are three of the eight chapters known to most readers of this type of book. As new as it is I would have thought some of the newer areas of mycology might have gotten mentioned, such as the Chytrid pathogen that is globally devastating amphibian populations. The text is only 159 pages plus a bunch of notes. Think of the book as a mini review, but considering its price, a disappointment. If you are looking for a quick read and don't come into the book with a lot of background you may very well enjoy the book.
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