What is Life?

Lynn Margulis, Author, Dorion Sagan, With, Niles Eldredge, Foreword by
Lynn Margulis, Author, Dorion Sagan, With, Niles Eldredge, Foreword by Simon & Schuster $40 (208p) ISBN 978-0-684-81087-4
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
There is much art as well as science in this beautifully illustrated treatment of topics relating to the genesis, organization and diversity of life forms on Earth. Margulis, a well-known professor of botany at the University of Massachusetts, and her son, Sagan, who previously collaborated on other works (Origins of Sex; Microcosmos) present a wide-ranging compendium that samples key facets of biology in conjunction with philosophic ideas and historical perspectives. The volume is configured for browsing. Numerous color photographs and charts convey a sense of wonder. While hugely informative, the text itself tends to the lyrical, sometimes lapsing into disconcerting private language. The issues emphasized reflect the authors' sympathy for a less dogmatically mechanistic and more phenomenological overview of what constitutes life, as exemplified by the Gaia hypothesis, which posits that the whole earth is a unified living organism. Library of Science, Natural Science, Astronomy and Reader's Subscription book clubs alternates. (Sept.)
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