A Guinea Pig's History of Biology

Jim Endersby, Author . Harvard Univ. $27.95 (499p) ISBN 978-0-674-02713-8

Like all the sciences, biology is rooted in observation, but in order to tease out the principles of reproduction and genetic inheritance, biologists needed to find plants and animals with fast breeding cycles—hence the popularity of guinea pigs, zebra fish and fruit flies as experimental subjects. Endersby's history explains how such life forms have been put to use by scientists from Charles Darwin's age to the present. But the flora and fauna are just a hook for Endersby, a lecturer in history at the University of Sussex, to talk about the scientists, and he's often at his most winning delving into biographical details, like the friendship between science writer Paul de Kruif and Sinclair Lewis, whom de Kruif advised on science and medicine for the novel Arrowsmith . He's also good at spotlighting small events that had sweeping consequences, like the 1847 repeal of a British tax on glass, which led to more greenhouses, which led to an outburst of botanical observation. Later chapters broach hot-button topics like genetically modified food and the backlash against animal testing. Endersby offers a fresh take and surprising conclusions (“Mendel did not invent modern genetics”) on familiar material. 12 b&w illus. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 499 pages - 978-0-434-01259-6
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-09-947124-0
Paperback - 499 pages - 978-0-674-03227-9
Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-1-4481-0685-1
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