The Lying Stones Of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History

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9780099285830: The Lying Stones Of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History

Stephen Jay Gould's writing remains the modern standard by which popular science writing is judged. Ever since the late 1970s up until till his death in 2002, his monthly essay in Natural History and his full-length books bridged the yawning gap between science and wider culture.

In this fascinating new collection of essays from Natural History, Gould applied biographical perspectives to the illumination of key scientific concepts and their history, ranging from the origins of palaeontology to modern eugenics and genetic engineering. The essays brilliantly illuminate and elucidate the puzzles and paradoxes great and small that have fuelled the enterprise of science and opened our eyes to a world of unexpected wonders.

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Review:

Stephen Jay Gould's monumental series of popular science essays, started in the 1970s, approaches its close with The Lying Stones of Marrakech. The subtitle, "Penultimate Reflections in Natural History", indicates that the next volume will be the last. Back at the beginning, in The Panda's Thumb and The Flamingo's Smile, Gould concerned himself with zoological and paleontological issues, demonstrating how the curiosities of nature--the bodged jobs, if you like--were more revealing of the workings of evolution and natural selection than its perfection. His focus has changed somewhat, and the current offering reflects a preoccupation with the intellectual history of science. The results may be less immediately appealing than Gould's earlier accounts of biological freaks and oddities, and the effort required of the reader greater, but the rewards are immense.

These essays deal with the evolution of key concepts in the history of science, showing in every case that the accepted textbook accounts of their development are at the least over-simplifications, at worst downright falsifications resulting from misunderstanding, prejudice or even malice. The title essay deals with the case of an 18th-century fossil-collector duped into accepting as genuine fossils an absurd (to modern eyes) collection of forgeries including life-like lizards complete with skin and eyes, cobwebs and bees taking nectar from flowers. As always with Gould, context is everything. He patiently explores the intellectual assumptions underlying the wretched Dr Beringer's mistake and shows how, far from being a piece of misguided folly, it illuminates a profound and serious contemporary debate about the origins of the Earth and the laws governing the workings of the Universe.

The remaining essays share the same spirit of dedicated enquiry. Gould's delight, or even exultation, in the life of the mind and the workings of science is inspiring in the highest degree. Readers familiar with his earlier essays will encounter many old friends (Darwin, Huxley, Lyell, L Lavoisier, Richard Owen among others) and meet new ones; the preoccupation with baseball is as strong as ever, though references to his beloved Gilbert and Sullivan are, mercifully some might think, absent. Many will regret the imminent closure of this remarkable series of volumes, but The Lying Stones of Marrakech is an intellectual feast and sufficient unto the day. --Robin Davidson

Review:

"Gould has an infectious and joyful understanding of the intricacies of his subject, be it an appreciation of Carl Sagan, the dangers of scientific fraud or a brief homage to Mozart. With Lying Stones we have one of our last chances to appreciate these virtues and assess a scientiest who has become a Western Science phenomenon. His quirkiness, his ability to coalesce seemingly unconnected topics, and his individual passion are qualities that help make him such a powerful writer" ( Observer)

"It is a hallmark of Stephen Jay Gould's craft, brilliant paleontologist that he is, to retrieve long-buried evidence from oblivion and breathe vibrant life into it, making fascinating connections between science and the human predicament... extraordinary" ( Sunday Times)

"The most readable of scientists. Whether linking the death of textile workers in New York with Darwin's theory of natural selection, or the sale of fake fossils in Morocco with an 18th-century paleontological hoax, Gould proves that he is a master bridge builder" ( Financial Times)

"One of the best essayists in the business. He uses his wide background knowledge (anything from baseball to the political history of revolutionary France) as a bridge to entice non-scientists into sharing the excitement of scientific discovery and the curious, convoluted path of new ideas through history" ( Scotsman)

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 194 x 130 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Stephen Jay Gould s writing remains the modern standard by which popular science writing is judged. Ever since the late 1970s up until till his death in 2002, his monthly essay in Natural History and his full-length books bridged the yawning gap between science and wider culture. In this fascinating new collection of essays from Natural History, Gould applied biographical perspectives to the illumination of key scientific concepts and their history, ranging from the origins of palaeontology to modern eugenics and genetic engineering. The essays brilliantly illuminate and elucidate the puzzles and paradoxes great and small that have fuelled the enterprise of science and opened our eyes to a world of unexpected wonders. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099285830

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Book Description Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Jay Gould's writing remains the modern standard by which popular science writing is judged. Ever since the late 1970s up until till his death in 2002, his monthly essay in Natural History and his full-length books bridged the yawning gap between science and wider culture. In this fascinating new collection of essays from Natural History, Gould applied biographical perspectives to the illumination of key scientific concepts and their history, ranging from the origins of palaeontology to modern eugenics and genetic engineering. The essays brilliantly illuminate and elucidate the puzzles and paradoxes great and small that have fuelled the enterprise of science and opened our eyes to a world of unexpected wonders. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099285830

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