PRIME MOVER: A Natural History of Muscle

Steven Vogel, Author, Annette deFerrari, Illustrator . Norton $29.95 (370p) ISBN 978-0-393-02126-4

Muscles are intricately involved in almost every aspect of an animal's life. As Vogel (Cats' Paws and Catapults), professor of biology at Duke University, explains, "muscle has been our sole engine for most of our time on earth.... The same stuff propels water flea and whale." Vogel does a superb job of discussing all facets of muscle biology, clarifying how they work, develop and atrophy. In witty, accessible prose, he describes the different forms and functions of human muscles, as well as the muscular operations that allow an insect to fly, a frog to croak and a clam to keep its shell closed. He also provides insight into the history of biology, analyzing the classic experiments that taught us what we know about muscle. But the book is more than an introduction to muscle biology; Vogel's unique, interdisciplinary approach includes a look at how muscle physiology has influenced the development of human culture by leading us to develop tools and weapons and exploit beasts of burden, all in an effort to better harness the power of our own muscles. There's also a chapter on carnivorousness, including an intriguing discussion of the economics of cannibalism. Vogel demonstrates, for example, why no society could ever survive if largely dependent on fellow humans as a primary source of protein ("It will shrink a population far faster than total celibacy"). A great deal of fascinating material will engage most readers, regardless of their technical background. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 386 pages - 978-0-393-32463-1
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-393-24731-2
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