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

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  386 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms is the newest collection of best-selling scientist Stephen Jay Gould's popular essays from "Natural History" magazine (the longest-running series of scientific essays in history). It is also the first of the final three such collections, since Dr. Gould has announced that the series will end with the turn of the millennium...more
Paperback, 422 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Belknap Press (first published September 29th 1998)
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Trevor
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
Juanita Rice
Nov 17, 2011 Juanita Rice rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any non-fiction reader
Shelves: science, non-fiction
When Stephen Jay Gould, eminent evolutionary scientist and prolific writer, died in May of 2002, some of his previous forecasts--about "the end" or "the penultimate reflections," or "before the millennium calls a halt"--seemed to be eerie foreshadowings of the virulent cancer which killed him. He had, however, long planned to end his columns for Natural History magazine, and the books that collected them, with the January 1 issue of 2001, the date he would celebrate as the first day of the new...more
Kathryn
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
Jen
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
Jim
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...more
Bonnie
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
Neil
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...more
Peter
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.
Jimmy
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...more
Lucas
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...more
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.
Cherie
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.
Ross
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
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!
Matthew
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...
Benedict Reid
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.
Courtney
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
Worthwhile if for no other reason than a lovely essay on the Catholic Church's acceptance of evolution as "more than a theory"
MikeFromQueens
Love this stuff! Deep dives into everything and still on topic... this man was truly remarkable.
Gemma Alexander
If I had read this book 15 years ago, my life would probably have taken a different path.
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19109
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
More about Stephen Jay Gould...
Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History The Mismeasure of Man The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on 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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