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Wonderful Life: Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (Penguin science) [Paperback]

Stephen Jay Gould
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Mar 1991 Penguin science
Basing his argument around the history of science's treatment of the fossils of the Burgess shale, the author presents a view of evolution as a non-progressive system, which saw a wide range of early designs for life winnowed down to the relatively few basic designs that exist today.


Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 Mar 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140133801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140133806
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
Not since the Lord himself showed his stuff to Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones had anyone brought such grace and skill to the reconstruction of animals from disarticulated skeletons. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not outstanding 21 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback
This is a book primarily about the abundance of life in that had been preserved in fossils in the Burgess shale.

Gould writes about the people who spent hour after painstaking hour examining the samples, deciphering the forms and understanding the compressed fossils in this rock formation. In the second part of the book he writes about Walcott, administrator at the Smithsonian institute until he died, and his error in the analysis in the samples. He then considers the what if questions that evolution throws up, in the final part.

I found the writing style to be quite dry and technical. Understandable to a certain extent given the subject matter, but my feeling is with science writers is that they should make the subject that they are writing about come alive, and this book didn't do it for me. The part on Walcott was good, he was a man who had a lot of influence and authority in the scientific advances in America, but he suffered some fundamental flaws.

This was written 20 or so years ago now, and in its time would have been a seminal work; now it is still important, but understanding of the creatures in the Burgess shale are now better understood and technology can bring them to life in ways that Gould could have never of considered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Paleontology and the beginnings of life 7 Jan 2013
By teneb
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book if this is your thing. Reminds me a bit of the Piltdown controversy though there was no intent to deceive here!!
A bit wordy and the illustrations are not very good (perhaps only in this cheap edition?) but very interesting - a classic in its genre.
Purchase achieved with the usual Amazon speed and efficiency.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the Burgess shale 25 Dec 2011
By Alan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What afascinating read. I thoughrolly enjoyed it. The book has drawings of the really wierd creatures that lived in the Cambrian sea, and describes them clearly. If you are interested in pre history, then this book is a must.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Evolution explained 2 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Burgess Shale which yielded a strange group of very early fossils was a subject new to me. The author leads you through the methods used to arrange these previously unknown animals into new categories. This led to a new understanding of the evolution of life on earth. He also gives an insight into the lives of the fossil hunters themselves.
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4.0 out of 5 stars the story of early life on Earth 24 July 2011
Format:Paperback
A great book about the discovery of the fossils in the Burgess Shale and an amazing description of early life now extinct reminding me of that quote from Pablo Picasso, "God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He has no real style. He just keeps on trying other things." A very good read if you are interested in evolution and the development of life forms on Earth, not to mention the adventure of this fossil discovery itself.
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