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Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys
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Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Biologists and laypeople alike have repeatedly claimed victory over life. A thousand years ago we thought we knew almost everything; a hundred years ago, too. But even today, Rob Dunn argues, discoveries we can't yet imagine still await.

In a series of vivid portraits of single-minded scientists, Dunn traces the history of human discovery, from the establishment of classifi
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published December 2nd 2008 by Smithsonian (first published 2008)
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Apr 26, 2009 Melody rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dad
I really enjoyed this book, which looks at scientists through the ages, many of whom are more than a little bit dotty. Especially Linnaeus, of course. I learned a lot about archaea and nanobacteria (or maybe nanons, the jury's still out on the ultimate nomenclature), but mostly this book is about hubris, about the depth and breadth of our ignorance, and about those visionaries clutching guttering candles in the dark. Dunn is humorous without being snarky, respectful without being obsequious, and ...more
This was a great book. There are all kinds of bits of biology history and information interwoven throughout the book-- yet its told in such a story-telling manner, that I kept wanting to read and never put it down. Also, it's a wonderful perspective on what science research is, and how its so much more than just a bunch of facts that we memorize in high school or college. I think its a must-read book for anyone considering pursing the sciences post high school. Though also a very good read for a ...more
Michael Alexander Henke
Many people may remember hearing the name Carl Linnaeus from a biology class they took at one point time. He's the man who gave the binomial nomenclature system for classifying life. Unless you continued to study the sciences, there's a good chance you haven't thought about him in quite some time.
Linnaeus was obsessed with naming the natural world around him. In his life he named over 10,000 species and if you live in the northern hemisphere then nearly every animal you see on a daily basis was
Barry Bridges
Other than stealing the title from a classic, Dunn presents an acceptable original work telling of discovery and hardship in science.
Sep 01, 2012 Zl added it
This book came recommended by a colleague. The author explores the personalities of biological discovery, especially those associated with taxonomy and biodiversity. Including Linnaeus, Antonine von Leeuwenhoek, Terry Erwin, Dan Janzen, Lynn Margulis, Carl Sagan, Carl Woese, Craig Venter, Frank Drake and others. While the beginning held my attention, I found my mind wandering through the final section on "life in space". This may because the earlier parts are based in evidence and physical disco ...more
For the most part I really enjoyed this. Dunn's focus was: the more you look at the life that surrounds us, the more you'll find. My background is in biology, but I never really thought about the whole spectrum of life as a whole this way before, as my focus in school and professionally has necessarily always been a relatively narrow range of life. It was kind of mind boggling. My only real issue was that I found his excessive footnotes pretty annoying: either the information should have been im ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
What really hooked me on this book was the topic. I have always felt (and am glad to not be alone in this regard) that the world wherein the very small reside is far under represented in scientific literature. Considering the vast number of Bacteria and Archaea that exist it always astounds me how little coverage they get in Biology textbooks and the like. I absolutely adored Dunns descriptions of Leeuwenhoeks unique and ecstatic feelings of observing things in the realm of the very small and I ...more
A very good biology book for physicists, as it has little jargon, and is about the effort to enumerate species and estimate the number of species as yet undiscovered and uncounted (among other aspects of studying biodiversity). Discusses the huge increase in the number of known species since the late 1800s, as found in tropical forests, the sea floor, etc. Portraits of the discoverers and theorists make the book an enjoyable read.
This book is a readable retracing of the classification of life from the Enlightenment to the present. The author does not attempt to be exhaustive, but focuses on crucial characters and controversies that have led to major revisions in the way we view the world. Dunn makes a compelling case that how we classify and organize living organisms is crucial to understanding our attitude toward our environment and our place in the universe. Enjoyable, understandable for the average educated reader. I ...more
Every Living Thing tells the story of the push to understand more about the quantity and diversity of life in the universe. It is simultaneously humorous and fascinating with gossipy histories of science giants (Linnaeus comes off a cowardly, manipulative genius) and accounts of forms of life like beetles (and the mites that live on them) who masquerade as army ants in the rain forests of Central America. It's a quick read that just might inspire one to get a microscope and explore.
So enjoyable to learn a bit about the naming of animals, insects and plants. But then, how can we be so grandiose and tentative a the same time? Grandiose in that we think we've named everything, tentative in thinking about the scope of life. The reverse would be more appropriate; we have named a few things, and the scope of life is grander than we conceive.
This is very good read, not super technical and very interesting. It's kind of a history of the important discoveries in biology and the scientists who made them over the past 50 years or so. Also a lot of interesting personal experiences and accounts of field work (searching for beetles that live only on the backs of ants in the Amazon). Overall, well written.
Jul 27, 2011 Eric added it
this book is elegantly written, and presents the stories of discovery that take shocking, revolutionary turns on what life is and how it exists, and the smarty-pants scientists who get kicked around when they stick to their guns. i'm not normally interested in cellular life--more plants and animals, but these are important dramatic stories in biology.
Well written, and the topic is interesting, but he seemed to repeat himself a lot. Every time he mentioned a discovery regarding how life is more widespread/diverse/plentiful than we might imagine (which was the whole book, basically), he'd repeat his spiel about it, which wasn't really warranted, since it was already the book's overriding theme.
The first part of this book is an enjoyable history of finding and name living things. When it gets to contemporary history, the Me Journalism overwhelms the story. It's about who the author knows and his thoughts on becoming a father. I got pretty bored and irritated by the end.
Well, to be honest, I browsed intensively rather than read every word, but do like this book and the idea of it quite a lot. A great preface by EO Wilson; all in all, we've barely scratched the surface of total organisms on our planet that we can madly categorize.
Kathy Morrow
Rarely does a scientist walk the fine line between dry facts and beautiful prose but Rob Dunn succeeded. A story that will keep you fascinated because you're both learning and imagining. Great read for anyone, but particularly good for biologists.
Bevat een paar sterke lessen over hoe wetenschappers zouden moeten omgaan met onzekerheid. Verpakt in de vorm van een biografie van een hele reeks biologen - zowel revolutionairen als dwazen. Gaat minder over de biologie zelf.
It is one of the most fun and interesting nonfiction books I have ever read. IT gives you the feel of how science really advances. It seems both more controversial and more alive than I have ever perceived before.
NC State Prof. writes book just for me. Loved reading the backstories of scientists I teach about each year. Taxonomy is my favorite branch of biology so this was a real page turner for me.
Wonderful book - very interesting and accessible. Dunn has an obvious passion for his work and a really beautiful way of expressing it.
Maureen Keene
The portraits of the scientists and their particular obsessions were fascinating.
This book made me miss working in a lab *so much*.
Interesting area - could be better written.
James Robinson
Jun 25, 2012 James Robinson is currently reading it
Not the Herriot one.
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“Science is full of egos and arrogance, but it is fuller of simple moments of pleasure at the joy of finding some gem of new knowledge, big or small. Such gems can be anyone’s.” 2 likes
“Leeuwenhoek, Erwin, Woese, and others were at the fringes of their respective fields, the frontiers, to be generous. The same might be said to be true, as the Urbanos point out in their article, of Galileo. Those discoverers were vindicated, but their ideas started out at the very margins of believability. If we are to look for the next big discoveries, discoveries of entire biological realms, the place to look may not be the big, well-funded labs of well-respected scientists. The place to look may be to the very fringes of science.” 1 likes
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