Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth Hardcover – 1 Mar 1998
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From the Inside Flap
A "New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
"Extraordinary. . . . Anyone with the slightest interest in biology should read this book."--"The New York Times Book Review
"A marvelous museum of the past four billion years on earth--capacious, jammed with treasures, full of learning and wide-eyed wonder."--"The Boston Globe
From its origins on the still-forming planet to the recent emergence of Homo sapiens--one of the world's leading paleontologists offers an absorbing account of how and why life on earth developed as it did. Interlacing the tale of his own adventures in the field with vivid descriptions of creatures who emerged and disappeared in the long march of geologic time, Richard Fortey sheds light upon a fascinating array of evolutionary wonders, mysteries, and debates. Brimming with wit, literary style, and the joy of discovery, this is an indispensable book that will delight the general reader and the scientist alike.
"A drama bolder and more sweeping than Gone with the Wind . . . a pleasure to read."--"Science
"A beautifully written and structured work . . . packed with lucid expositions of science."--"Natural History --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Richard Fortey is a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. His many books include "Earth: An Intimate History", "The Hidden Landscape: A Journey into the Geological Past", and "Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution". --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author hits the high points, including the evolution of single cells, the formation of bacterial colonies, the initiation of chlorophyll-based photosynthesis (that ultimately charged the atmosphere with oxygen), the specialization of cells into tissues, the population of the seas, the advance onto land, the greening of the earth, the separation of ancient Pangaea into today's separate continents, the Age of Dinosaurs, the advent of live-birth from wombs, the ascendancy of mammals, and finally the evolution of Man. For me, the most interesting chapter was on the apocalyptic cataclysm which ended the Age of Dinosaurs, i.e. the asteroid which apparently slammed into the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula creating the Chicxulub Crater. The volume also includes several photo sections that provide an adequate visual summary of the text.
The time spans of Fortey's tale are almost beyond mental grasp. For instance, at one point the author states that tool making by hominids began about 2.5 million years ago. Yet the style of the tools, the "technology" if you will, then remained virtually unchanged for the next million years.Read more ›
If there is one drawback, it's the weakness of the book when it comes to biochemistry and molecular biology. For example, Fortey doesn't cover the new results about the developmental biology of insect wings that also throw light at their evolution, and his description of the evolution of photosynthesis jumps straight from zero to Chlorobium, without much inbetween. Same with the Archea - there is a lot more weirdness going on there than Fortey lets on.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A marvellous, witty cornucopia on life and how it arose on this obscure little planet, interspersed with interesting observations on science and scientists as they puzzle over the... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Teemacs
Superbly written account of life's development, in a really beautiful edition.Published 18 months ago by Michael S. Rohan
It's a daunting prospect to cope with a book that purports to explain all about life from its very origins through to the present day. Read morePublished on 22 Jan. 2011 by Michael Bernard
This is a well written and professional piece of work. Unfortunately - to me at least - it seems to expose the guesswork involved with this type of pre-historical study. Read morePublished on 29 Sept. 2010 by KeithBarry
I like this book, in spite of the author's propensity for analogy and digression. My first impression was that he was just padding it out: perhaps, I thought, this veritable... Read morePublished on 15 April 2010 by R. Rowland