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Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution Paperback – 5 Mar 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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  • Life: an Unauthorized Biography
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (5 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006551386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006551386
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

With his new book Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution Richard Fortey confirms his status as one of the best communicators of science around today. His hugely enjoyable previous book Life: an Unauthorised Biography was shortlisted for the 1998 Rhone-Poulenc science book prize, but Trilobite is sure to receive even greater acclaim. Whereas Life took the reader on a whistle-stop tour of evolution from start to present--a huge undertaking that necessarily granted little space to each time period or taxonomic group--Trilobite sees Fortey indulging in a whole book about his overriding palaeontological passion, the long extinct and enigmatic creatures of the title. The result is a joy. Trilobites--woodlice-like creatures that dominated the world's oceans long before the time of the dinosaurs--are arguably the most beautiful animals that have ever been chipped out of the fossil record. Fortey certainly seems to think so. His enthusiastic, almost loving explanations of the anatomy, ecology and long evolutionary history of these fascinating vanished creatures carry the reader on a fascinating and inspirational journey into the Earth's distant past. But the book is much more than a technical treatise on trilobites. We learn about Fortey himself, his formative years as an amateur then professional palaeontologist, about his much-loved teachers and colleagues, and above all about that strange but addictive pastime known as science. You may not find arthropods as charming as Fortey does, but you will not fail to be charmed by the man. --Chris Lavers

Review

Praise for ‘Dry Store Room No 1’:

‘This book is worthy of the place it tells us about, and that is a pretty lofty chunk of praise.’ The Times

‘In this loving survey of his life at the museum, Fortey…is never less than enthused by all the museum's collections.’ Financial Times

‘Fortey…in his affectionate portrayal of the institution in which he spent his working life … sneaks us behind the scenes with all the glee of a small child seeing for the first time the museum's iconic Diplodocus skeleton … always authoritative … the beauty of the book is that - just like a museum - you can visit the different sections in any order you choose, lingering in the places that most take your fancy … and there is plenty of solid science to enjoy, elucidated with brilliant flair.’ Sunday Times

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is superb. If you are at all interested in fossils, evolution or geology then buy it and read it without hesitation. It has rekindled my interest in all these subjects. The english used by the author is beautifully crafted and very witty. The photographs are stunning and the science is expressed in terms that are very easy for a layman to follow. Don't be put off by the early chapter which parallels Fortey's experiences in Cornwall with a character in one of Hardy's novels. Once you get through this and on to trilobites proper, you'll not be able to put the book down.
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Format: Paperback
It is hard not to share Richard Fortey's enthusiasm for Trilobites after reading this book. I found that, unlike with most science books, I read every word and didn't just skim for interesting snippets. I now know more about trilobites than I did after completing a 3-year gelology-oriented degree because interesting and enthusiastic writing sticks in the memory.
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Format: Paperback
I've never really been a reader of science books, but the reviews of this were so good that i bought it to read on a long car journey, and it kept me entertained and interested the whole way there! Fortey's enthusiasm for trilobites is utterly infectious as he charts an exploration of their history and the history of those who study them, including himself. The book is packed with wonderful details on the structure of trilobite eyes, the protocol for naming fossils, anecdotes from Fortey's own life (being stung by a hornet in China!) and some groan-inducing puns (plans for a movie about rampaging trilobites called 'Thoraic Park'!). There is a wealth of scholarly and scientific detail in the book, but it never gets bogged down or becomes boring, and Fortey comes across as an engaging, obssessed, fascinating and fascinated man who can teach you the history of a fossil you may never have heard of and make you laugh at the same time. Highly recommended
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Format: Paperback
Fortey's writing talent is capable and captivating. Whether describing the cliffs of Cornwall or his journeys in search of fossils, he keeps your attention in thrall. He is even able to lead us into the realm of arcane terminology. In an early section in this book we are carefully introduced to the physical structure of long-extinct creatures. With graceful descriptions, he demonstrates how to painlessly add eight new words to our personal lexicons. He has much to tell us and he relates his story and his science with evocative skill. The exclamation mark of the title certainly reflects his enthusiasm for the topic. With his ability to communicate that zeal, it becomes infectious.
Trilobites, he continually reminds us, lasted far longer than the dinosaurs - nearly 300 million years, compared to the saurians' 120 million. Their persistence, Fortey explains, is due to their adaptability. They were so efficient at finding and filling ecological niches they are sometimes referred to as "the beetles of the Paleozoic". Fortey shows how various species inhabited deep oceans, shallow seas or glided through the mid-depths of the seas. The only niche left uninvaded, Fortey ponders ruefully, was fresh water streams and lakes. Had they done so, he muses, they might have persisted to modern times. Whether that step might have precluded our evolution, Fortey sets aside for others to consider.
We learn the anatomy of these lost arthropods, how the structure of the legs was discovered, how they grow from minuscule diatomic forms to more than lobster-sized. The most engaging aspect of trilobites was the variety and form of the eyes. Unlike the squishy, liquid-filled sensitive orbs we carry, trilobites "learned" enough chemistry to form eyes of calcite crystals.
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Format: Paperback
What interesting creatures. I feel I've learned a bit and would like to know more. I did read S J Gould's "Wonderful Life", about the fossilised creatures discovered in the Burgess Shale, a few years ago. That was fascinating too, but I found the author's gushing enthusiasm and sometimes over-imaginative speculation a bit of an impediment to my enjoyment. Now I try not to let style and presentation get in the way because quite a few popular science books seem to go in for this 'author centred story' sort of style and it would be a shame to miss out because of it. Style isn't everything and if a book is interesting, you can forgive the author's foibles. I think most of the interesting trilobite facts could have been covered in about 50 pages. This book is over 250 pages long because it covers the personal journey of the author from his first trilobite through the interesting people he met and worked with and whose work he admires (or not) and some interesting snatches of the history of palaeontology and the literature of Thomas Hardy and so on. It's not just a trilobite text book. There's lots of 'human interest' stuff here. Some people like that sort of thing and others can learn to relax and enjoy it. I tried to enjoy the personal four fifths of the book and didn't do too badly but the really interesting stuff for me was the information about trilobites.

It wasn't difficult to startle and amaze me with trilobite facts as I knew almost nothing about them.
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