Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms

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9780099289241: Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms

Stephen Jay Gould's writing remains the modern standard by which popular science writing is judged. Ever since the last 1970s, his monthly essay in Natural History and his full-length books have bridged the yawning gap between science and the wider culture. This fascinating new collection of essays contains some of Gould's bestw riting on a variety of subjects ranging from Leonardo da Vinci and Martin Luther to fossils and the history of science. As always, these essays brillantly display his gift for colloquial and vivid explanation, and include fascinating oddities from the natural world and the printed word.

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Review:

One of this century's most thoughtful and prolific naturalists, Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould looks at the human twists on science in his eighth series of essays taken from Natural History magazine. As only he can, Gould finds questions where others have never looked, and answers where others have been blinded- -by their professional rivalries, by their unacknowledged privilege in society, by the dominant world-view at their particular juncture in history. "All great science," he says in the title essay, "indeed all fruitful thinking, must occur in a social and intellectual context--and contexts are just as likely to promote insight as to constrain thought." Gould's gift is being able to identify context, and see patterns in diverse fields or people or moments in history in a way that Darwin saw patterns in living species.

This book is less about clams, worms and Leonardo than about some evolutionary dead ends in human intellectual history. It's not an easy read. Those who are already Gould fans will find more tantalising tidbits--no, thick stew--from this fruitful author. Those first-timers drawn by an intriguing title will scratch, frown, fall asleep, swear and generally want to give up. But don't! Gould is one of those authors that takes some getting used to. With a little patience, his extravagant prose will edify rather than trip you, and his digressions will delight rather than distract. --Lauran Cole Warner, Amazon.com

About the Author:

Stephen Jay Gould is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University, and the Vincent Astor Visiting Professor of Biology at New York University. His publications include Ever Since Darwin, Wonderful Life, Eight Little Piggies, Life's Grandeur and, most recently, Questioning the Millennium.

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