Kathryn's Reviews > The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History

The Lying Stones of Marrakech by Stephen Jay Gould
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Sep 14, 09

bookshelves: 2009
Read in November, 2009

I finished reading this book today (a good thing, as I have two other books that must be read before next Tuesday night), and very much enjoyed this not-quite-penultimate collection of essays that the author wrote for Natural History magazine on issues revolving around Evolution and Charles Darwin. Alas, Gould is no longer with us, but I treasure the essay collections, and enjoyed reading this one, as I have enjoyed reading the others in the series.

Gould writes with wry humor, but he is quite the scientist (there are times when reading this that I felt that my head was trying to expand, to fit in the advanced concepts; although the essays are written for the popular press, the author assumed a quite educated popular press reader). This can be seen from the chapter subheadings. Section 1 contains three essays, and is titled “Episodes in the Birth of Palenontology: The Nature of Fossils and the History of the Earth”. Before one dismisses out of hand this section, I must note (at some risk of tripping naughty-word software all over the Internet) that one of the essays is titled “How The Vulva Stone Became a Brachiopod”. We continue onward with Section 2: Present at the Creation: How France’s Three Finest Scientists Established Natural History in an Age of Revolution”, and Section 3 gives us “Darwin’s Century – And Ours: Lessons from Britain’s Four Greatest Victorian Naturalists”. The final three sections, oddly enough, have very short headings. Section 4 is “Six Little Pieces on the Meaning and Location of Excellence”, Section 5 covers “Science in Society”, and the final Section 6 covers “Evolution at All Scales”.

I have been reading (and collecting) the books of essays, ever since I discovered Stephen Jay Gould’s essays while reading Natural History magazine. By my count, I have one more to read, and then I am done, a fact that saddens me, for while I could always go back and read the books again, it’s more fun (and, perhaps, a better use of my time, as I am not yet immortal) to read new collections of essays.
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