The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Shark’s Teeth to Frog’s Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From

Edward Dolnick. Basic, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-465-08295-7
Dolnick (The Clockwork Universe) traces the winding tale of European understanding of conception biology from the 16th through the 19th century, when the merging of sperm and egg was first physically seen. He examines the theories popularized by scientific luminaries in each period, following advances in anatomy, microscopy, and scientific method as well as changes in philosophy about the relationships between men and women, humans and animals, and the living world and God. Dolnick honors the history of ideas that seem ludicrous today, including that of preformation of tiny versions of all human bodies at the beginning of creation, and makes the point that even the most brilliant investigators can miss salient information they don’t expect, as when Vesalius observed ovarian follicles a century before de Graaf but dismissed them as irrelevant. Substantive background on the work of such figures as William Harvey and Luigi Galvani may feel like a diversion to readers only interested in reproductive biology, but Dolnick composes a cohesive narrative around his central question while noting its appeal as a side topic to key thinkers in science. Illus. Agent: Philippa Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2017
Release date: 06/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-465-09496-7
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