The Story of Evolution in 25 Discoveries: The Evidence and the People Who Found It

Donald R. Prothero. Columbia Univ, $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-231-19036-7
Paleontologist Prothero (The Story of the Dinosaurs in 25 Discoveries) introduces the evidence and scientists behind 25 major discoveries in this accessible overview of the history of the idea of evolution. Prothero explains the age of the universe, Darwin’s discoveries, macroevolution in the fossil record, genetics, and ends with a discussion of evolution in humans. He places discoveries in their historical context—for instance, Darwin’s speculation that “species were not fixed and stable” was “considered impossible at the time because most people believed God had created each species,” and Henrietta Swan Leavitt’s 1913 study on stars’ brightness gave scientists “a reliable tool to measure how far away a star or galaxy was from Earth” at a time when “most women were barred from scientific careers completely.” A chapter on horses shows how the animals have contributed to human understanding of evolution, while another shows how the eye—as it evolved from those of light-seeking protozoans to complex vertebrate eyes—is a test case for Darwin’s theory. Prothero is skilled at translating specialist material into entertaining stories. Those well-versed in evolutionary matters will find little new, but curious lay readers will find this to be an engaging introduction. Photos and illus. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 10/16/2020
Release date: 12/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-0-231-54885-4
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