Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Stephen Jay Gould, Author W. W. Norton & Company $47 (348p) ISBN 978-0-393-02705-1
The Burgess Shale, a small quarry in the mountains of British Columbia, opened a window on the first multicellular animals (late Cambrian, 530 million years ago). These fossils were discovered in 1909 by America's foremost paleontologist, Charles D. Walcott, who classified them according to modern animals. More than 60 years later, three British scientists began an exhaustive re-examination of the Burgess fauna--with startling results for evolutionary theory and the history of life on earth. Presenting the revision as a play in five acts, Gould, eminent life-historian and author ( The Flamingo's Smile ), introduces us to the creatures of Burgess Shale and to the men who have painstakingly examined them. He explains Walcott's failure to recognize his greatest discovery in terms of his background, then discourses on the value of history as a scientific tool. This is exciting and illuminating material on the beginnings of life. Illustrations. BOMC, QPB and History Book Club selections. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
Library Binding - 348 pages - 978-0-7351-0031-2
Paperback - 347 pages - 978-0-09-927345-5
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