A mini book review The Book of Life Stephen Jay Gould, General Editor 1993, Random House A
From: sharpe@nmesis (Richard Sharpe)
A mini book review
The Book of Life
Stephen Jay Gould, General Editor
1993, Random House Australia,
I joined the Double Day History Book club recently. In a catalogue I saw
_The Book of Life_ by Stephen Jay Gould and could not resist it.
I was very delighted when it turned up. Here is a short description of it.
_The Book of Life_ would be good reading for many of the t.o regulars,
although some of the more scholarly would find that it does not tell
them anything new.
It seems to be designed as an advanced coffee table book like Niles
Eldridges' Fossils: Evolution and Extinction (I think I have that
right). It is 256 pages long and contains excellent colour
illustrations. Best of all, I got it for A$11 off the said retail price
of A$45.95 :-)
It contains the following chapters:
Preface: Reconstructing (and deconstructing) the past,
Stephen Jay Gould
Intro: Life and Time,
Ch 1: Foundations: Life in the oceans,
J John Sepkoski Jr
Ch 2: The rise of the fishes,
Ch 3: Four feet on the ground,
Ch 4: Dinosaur summer,
Ch 5: Victors by default,
Ch 6: The primates' progress
Peter Andrews and Christopher Stringer
All of the articles are copyright 1993, so they are up-to-date. The
authors, while not all familiar to me at first glance, have impressive
qualifications. Quoting from the back fly-leaf:
"Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University [as if he needs any
"J John Sepkoski Jr, who worked with Gould at Harvard, is Professor at
the University of Chicago, and is a paleontologist specialising in
evolutionary radiation and mass extinction."
"Michael Benton is a leading expert on extinct reptiles, amphibians and
"Christine Janis ..., is one of the world's leading experts on the
evolution of mammals"
"Christopher Stringer is a research scientist in the Human Origins Group
at the Natural History Museum, London ..."
"Peter Andrews is a research scientist in the Human Origins Group at the
Natural History Museum, London ..."
The colour plates are excellent, it has diagrams showing the position of
the continents at many times in the past with indications of the
radiation of various phyla and species. Page 101 for example contains a
box on Global Extinction Patterns. This box has a graph in it with
Oxygen Isotope curve, Carbon Isotope curve, Marine Strontium Isotope
curve, and percentage of continents covered by sea, all one above each
other all showing the discontinuity at the end of the Permian, 245MYA.
It also shows the position of the continents at the same time.
For me, just the box dealing with the evolution of the horse was worth
The only disappointing thing about the book is the lack of references or
a section on further reading. Curiously, Gould's preface contains
references, but they are of little interest to me.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank