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Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (Reflections in Natural History #8)

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  477 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
With his customary brilliance, Gould examines the puzzles and paradoxes great and small that build nature's and humanity's diversity and order.
Paperback, 422 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Belknap Press (first published 1998)
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I enjoy these collections of Natural Science magazine essays by Stephen Jay Gould, but this is not his best one. Of the five I've read so far -- there are 10 altogether -- this is my least favorite. At his best SJG's essays play off a number of seemingly unrelated topics and then slowly, often dazzlingly, he weaves the disparate threads together. He still does that here. And the best essays, "The Diet of Worms and the Defenestration of Prague" and "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" are right up there ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I read this book before I did reviews. But I’ve been working on my PhD and part of that is thinking about how the images we are presented with of the world shape the way we see that world. And the best example I can think of about that is the third essay in this collection, Seeing Eye to Eye, Through a Glass Clearly . You see, there was a fad in the 1850s in England to have an aquarium in your house. A whole series of technologies had come together at the same time – we learnt about the importan ...more
Edith Wasco
Jan 24, 2014 Edith Wasco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tengo años que leo los libros de ensayos de Gould y debo decir que este hombre siempre me sorprende y enamora más con cada libro.

De los libros de él que he leído en los últimos años creo que es el que más me ha gustado como un todo ya que no contiene casi ningún ensayo que sea muy técnico o que se haga lento y por el contrario, la mayoría de los ensayos son sobre temáticas muy atractivas o cuando son un poco más densos (los más técnicos o con más referencias obscuras) están escritos de tal mane
Apr 13, 2016 Daphne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-audio, quest, uno2016
Always a pleasure to visit the master of natural history writing.
Jul 09, 2009 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I started reading Natural History magazine several years ago, because I loved the essays of Stephen Jay Gould that appeared in each monthly issue; each essay had something to do with evolution (with Charles Darwin’s name invoked regularly), and were quite entertaining reading, along with being educational. Alas, Gould died in 2002; but his Natural History magazine essays have been collected in several books, of which this present book is the eighth or ninth (I lost count, and the book does not s ...more
Aug 10, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book I'd normally pick up on my own, since I don't really think of myself as a science lover. However, I've been working my way through our bookshelves, reading the books that I haven't read that look interesting. I've reached my husband's science section, and I have to say that I love Stephen Jay Gould. My husband has been a big fan ever since we met, and I see why. His essays (this book is a collection of essays Gould wrote for Natural History magazine)are fascinating, such as wh ...more
Dec 12, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is probably not the best introduction to the late Stephen Jay Gould's body of work (instead try either: The Flamingo's Smile, Bully for Brontosaurus or Dinosaur in a Haystack), but you simply must read him if you delight in learning more about the world around you and being (classically) entertained at the same time.

These various anthologies of his Essays written for the American Natural History magazine over many years are an enduring legacy of an original scientist, a brilliant educa
Oct 19, 2013 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's always interesting to see how great minds think. Years ago, I thought the basics of science were quite cut and dried - already figured out centuries ago. Then, as I studied geology, I found what a young science it was, with basics such as superposition and fossils figured out only about two hundred years ago. I heard about conflicting theories and how some of the major tenets, such as continental drift and plate tectonics were ridiculed until the late 1900s. Of course, we expect new develop ...more
Peter Murray
Mar 17, 2016 Peter Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gould is both paleontologist and philosopher. His essays on Natural History are a must read for all biologists in my opinion. The real arguments within the vast domain of yet-to-be-formed evolutionary theory are ongoing and fascinating.
Jul 29, 2010 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has been on my shelf for a long time - it's just always felt too hefty to delve into. I don't know what I was afraid of - Stephen Jay Gould is a very accessible writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book.

I knew little about the topics covered in this book, except for some sketchy background about Darwin, Da Vinci and defenestration(!) Gould brings his erudition and wide knowledge of more than just science to bear on each topic, expounding and expanding in equal measure, build
Scott DeVogelaere
My review of this book is primarily due to the fact that much of it was over my head. As an English/Social Studies teacher, most of the essays in this book discussed elements of science that were a little too scientific for my taste. Definitely not for the layman, although it had its moments. Otherwise, it was very intelligent and well written, just not for me.
Just finished it. Gave me a lot to thing about. I am going to do more reading around some of these issues. Gould is someone I have been reading for years.
Mar 11, 2016 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
508 Essays on Natural History (a compilation of Gould's monthly articles in Natural History magazine), with an emphasis on Darwinian evolution.
Feb 01, 2011 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution
It was fascinating to read about how Leonardo's remarkable powers of observation enabled him to see the falsity of the story of Noah's flood. Now what's wrong with people today who still believe in such mythological nonsense.

I saw Stephen Jay Gould speak a few weeks before he died, and he knew he was dying. He never told the audience. After the lecture, I wondered why he didn't tell more jokes because I love his sense of humor. Perhaps that is why. Instead he used the time to speak up for the d
Jul 19, 2010 Lucas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural_history
Some of the pop culture references in some of the essays haven't aged well, though there are very few of them.

Nearly every essay follow a pattern of presenting a discredited or overly simplistic point of view and then pointing out in detail why it's wrong. The view could be something Victorians or earlier people thought, or something from contemporary popular science. This format is very popular, it creates tension and drama- but too frequently in other works it is entirely artificial.

The mount
Hugo Torres
I found myself more confused than enlightened as I listened to the audio on this books. It may translate better on the page but the audio experience was not the best.
Katharine Holden
Rather boring.
Michael Nalbone
Aug 22, 2015 Michael Nalbone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oct 10, 2008 Cherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essays are not the most interesting reading, unless the writer has a command of language that grabs, and the content is compelling on a personal level. After over 300 essays for Natural History, Gould must have mastered the form. He was a palentologist, and it seems that the theory of evolution informs/forms his thinking in every other field or subject. This book was fascinating.
John Rzepka
Jan 21, 2014 John Rzepka rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The worst book ever.
Oct 01, 2009 Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Typical high quality of Goulds writing. This is a series of essays on a range of subjects that have piqued his curiosity. While this could be of somewhat greater interest to non-scientists than much of his work, it is primarily for scientists with interest in paleontology and evolution.
Nicole Marble
Aug 25, 2007 Nicole Marble rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Jay Gould was one of the widest ranging intellects of the 20th cent. His sentances are often complex and his range of thought can be dizzying, but he is always amusing and fascinating. I enjoy learning about the wilder corners of science, and Gould is the best teacher!
Sep 23, 2007 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful collection of some of Gould's columns - covering issues from an evolutionary biology point of view. Gould's rational thought and ability to illustrate with examples from the real world enrich our understanding of the world and more importantly, ourselves...
Sep 06, 2015 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Put this on history shelf because it is Natural History. I don't read much science; in fact, Gould is the only writer on science I go to at all with any repetition. His writing is excellent and his sense of humor doesn't diminish his scholarship.
Benedict Reid
Aug 11, 2011 Benedict Reid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He's so, so good. History and it's impact on modern thinking... as with all his collections of essays. The one flaw is that it's a bit too long. I'd read a lot more of him if his collections were novel sized rather than war and piece.
I've been ever so slowly wading thru this for several years. I'll pick it up and put it down and pick it up and put it down. Someday I'll finish!
Les Howie
Nov 11, 2013 Les Howie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worthwhile if for no other reason than a lovely essay on the Catholic Church's acceptance of evolution as "more than a theory"
Love this stuff! Deep dives into everything and still on topic... this man was truly remarkable.
Gemma Alexander
Sep 03, 2008 Gemma Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
If I had read this book 15 years ago, my life would probably have taken a different path.
David M
Mar 22, 2008 David M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
love gould
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Stephen Jay Gould was a prominent American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Most of Gould's empirical research was on land snails. Gould
More about Stephen Jay Gould...

Other Books in the Series

Reflections in Natural History (10 books)
  • Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History
  • The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
  • Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History
  • The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History
  • Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History
  • Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History
  • Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History
  • The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History
  • I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History

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“This new consensus seemed so compelling that Ernst Mayr, the dean of modern Darwinians, opened the ashcan of history for a deposit of Geoffrey's ideas about anatomical unity.” 1 likes
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