Who Ate the First Oyster? The Extraordinary People Behind the Greatest Firsts in History

Cody Cassidy. Penguin, $17 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-14-313275-2
Science writer Cassidy (And Then You’re Dead) profiles prehistoric milestones and the individuals responsible for them in this illuminating and entertaining survey. Interviewing experts across a variety of fields, Cassidy details plausible scenarios for the first bow and arrow, the discovery of the Americas, the first beer, the first case of smallpox, and the first joke, among other turning points, and sketches the anonymous originators’ probable backgrounds and the causes and effects of their contribution to human history. The ancient hominin mother who invented the baby sling three million years ago, Cassidy writes, “removed the evolutionary governor” on human intelligence by allowing helpless infants more time to develop synapses in their brains. The rise of agriculture in Neolithic Europe led to income inequality and specialization, which in turn granted the first surgeon (Cassidy names him “Dr. Zero”) the authority to cut into a man’s skull to relieve pressure from a head injury. The Polynesian who first set foot on Hawaii 1,500 years ago sailed an 80-foot “double-hulled catamaran” and had the equivalent of a PhD in astronomy. Cassidy humanizes prehistory with wit and a firm grasp of the science behind these anthropological case studies. Enthralled readers will develop a new appreciation for the ancient past. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/24/2020
Release date: 05/05/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-525-50467-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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