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Liaisons of Life: From Hornworts to Hippos, How the Unassuming Microbe Has Driven Evolution Hardcover – 9 Apr 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (9 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471399728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471399728
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.1 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,965,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Wakeford, a biologist and Award–winning science writer, fires a shot across the bow of contemporary Darwinism with this compelling defense of symbiosis, the notion that evolution is driven as much by interdependence as by competition and that microbes are its leading innovators. The claim that adaptation in nature can be communal as well as dog–eat–dog might be stating the obvious, but as the author argues, many of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the last 50 years have focused almost exclusively on competition, while the microbe, long misunderstood to be merely disease–related, has been completely overlooked. Louis Pasteur, the 19th–century father of microbiology, single–handedly spawned the antibacterial age with his cult of cleanliness. During WWI, the British press employed Pasteur′s fearsome metaphor of the "bacterial mob" to dehumanize the enemy, dubbing the Germans "GermHuns." Wakeford illustrates how symbiosis, an idea whose time surely has come, has been the object of open hostility from politically minded biologists, who equated the concept with Communism and totalitarianism. During WWII, University of Chicago biologists Warder Allee and Alfred Emerson, following Russian scientist Peter Kropotkin′s lead when he argued that the overemphasis of competition in evolutionary theory was a byproduct of industrialized capitalism, found themselves on the defensive against charges that their own theories were a justification of a Nazi–like police state that forced self–sacrifice for the benefit of the nation. Fortunately, the scientific community has begun to come around, thanks to the work pioneered by Kropotkin, the Chicago School and others. As the book′s title suggests, Wakeford marshals convincing evidence from the four corners of the natural world to show how germs blazed the trail that was later followed by plants and animals. (Publishers Weekly) "a marvellous read, thoroughly deserving a place on the bookshelves of every school library, where receptive minds will find much stimulation. Highly recommended." (Journal of Biological Education, Vol.35, No. 4, 2001) "...a crisp, highly readable book..." (Daily Telegraph, 17 November 2001) "...cheery and informal...vivid recollections..." (Biologists, Vol.48 No.6 2001) "...there is much to learn from this book..." (Times Higher Literary Supplement, 26 April 2002)

"Wakeford...fires a shot across the bow of contemporary Darwinism with this compelling defense of symbiosis, the notion that evolution is driven as much by interdependence as by competition and that microbes are its leading innovators." (Publishers Weekly) "a marvellous read, thoroughly deserving a place on the bookshelves of every school library, where receptive minds will find much stimulation. Highly recommended." (Journal of Biological Education, Vol.35, No. 4, 2001) "...a crisp, highly readable book..." (Daily Telegraph, 17 November 2001) "...cheery and informal...vivid recollections..." (Biologists, Vol.48 No.6 2001) "...there is much to learn from this book..." (Times Higher Literary Supplement, 26 April 2002)

Review

"Tom Wakeford has a good eye for striking facts...Liaisons of Life is a tour of symbioses––of beneficial partnerships between different life forms. Wakeford concentrates on cases in which one of the partners is a microbe, and the rhizosphere is one of about six main examples in the book. The others include luminescent bacteria that colonize the eyes of deep–sea fishes, acting as torchlights in the dark; the ideas of the biologist Lynn Margulis about cell evolution; and the early scientific career of the children′s author Beatrix Potter, who started out by working on lichens. The book is highly readable; it assumes little scientific knowledge; and it is written in an enthusiastic, personal style. You can sense that Wakeford, a biologist at the University of Sussex, likes the material he is writing about. The examples of symbiosis are all excellent pieces of research.... Wakeford and the school of thought he writes about have uncovered some marvelous ecological stories, and they wonder whether competition is so important after all." ––The New York Times "Tom Wakeford′s book, Liaisons of Life , is a thoroughly readable look at the history of one of biological science′s greatest ideas; that organisms do not exist as separate entities, but as communities of disparate microbes accumulated during evolutionary history. Symbiosis is clearly an idea whose time has come, and Tom Wakeford helps us understand why." ––Dr. Roger M. Knutson, Author of Fearsome Fauna: A Field Guide to the Creatures that Live in You "The complexity of Life has forced on biologists a less detached approach than is usual in science. Their feeling for the organism conflicts with their dispassionate reduction of its DNA sequence. Tom Wakeford′s fine book movingly captures the consequence of this tension on scientists and politicians in his history of the concept of Symbiosis. All scientists should read it." ––James Lovelock, author of Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth "Tom Wakeford′s book is a remarkable and chamingly written excursion across the field of symbiotic interactions among plants, animals and fungi. He makes the case that an understanding of symbiosis is essential to an understanding of evolution, and succeeds." ––Christopher Wills, author of Children of Prometheus "Thanks to Tom Wakeford for his tales of life as a long adventure in partnership, and for his stories of people who pioneered that idea. With a true naturalist′s eye and a store of engaging anecdotes, he shows how the concept of symbiosis has moved from the fringe of science to its center." ––Arno Karlen, Ph.D., author of Biography of a Germ "A cogent introduction to the possibility that nature is not red in tooth and claw, but green of thumb as it cultivates interdependence instead of just competition." ––Wayne Biddle, author of A Field Guide to Germs and A Field Guide to the Invisible

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14 August 2001
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
2 people found this helpful
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28 November 2002
Format: Paperback
7 December 2010
Format: Hardcover

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
A. Simon
4.0 out of 5 starsSymbiosis is everywhere
1 May 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bucherwurm
5.0 out of 5 starsBacteria Are Our Friends
11 March 2002 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
2 people found this helpful.
David B Richman
5.0 out of 5 starsDarwin would be fascinated
2 June 2003 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
5 people found this helpful.

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