Sunday, January 15, 2012

Remarkable Creatures by Sean Carroll

In Remarkable Creatures, Sean Carroll takes the reader on a lively tour of the discoveries in evolution, biology, genetics, archeology, geology and scientific dating that have revolutionized the thinking about how man appeared on earth and changed over the years.  Carroll is a professor of molecular biology and genetics and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The book is structured in three areas.  The first talks of the beginnings of the theory of evolution with chapters on Darwin and on Alfred Wallace (Amazon explorations) and Henry Walter Bates.  The second group of chapters discusses the role of fossils and the lengths and privations taken to obtain them, as well as the conclusions reached from them.  The final group of chapters talks about the human evolution from the cradle of life in Africa to the Neanderthal chapter and the scientists such as Leakey who pioneered this work.  It ends with the new role that molecular biology is playing with providing more exact dates when various life forms existed and the genetic relationships between various forms.

This book is recommended for curious readers who want to know more about how we know what we know.  It is an overview of the area and highlights the various scientists who advanced knowledge, providing a look at the human side of their lives as well as the scientific discoveries they made.  The privations and enthusiasm these individuals displayed as well as the total focus they had on their life work is an amazing characteristic that all shared.  Carroll has done an excellent job in explaining the overall theories of life without drowning in the details, providing enough information for those who want to delve more deeply. 

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