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What Is Life?

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  216 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Half a century ago, before the discovery of DNA, the Austrian physicist and philosopher Erwin Schrödinger inspired a generation of scientists by rephrasing the fascinating philosophical question: What is life? Using their expansive understanding of recent science to wonderful effect, acclaimed authors Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan revisit this timeless question in a fast- ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 31st 2000 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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Bob Nichols
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Margulis/Sagan make a forceful argument for a distinct biologically-based worldview. Life draws from the sun and non-living matter. Life transforms and uses energy and matter for life-sustaining purposes. The animal and plant kingdoms draw from and consist of the bacteria (non-nucleated cells) and protoctists (simple nucleated cells) that represent the first two (in time)life kingdoms (fungi is the third kingdom). The authors are champions of the two "lowest kingdoms" because of th ...more
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
«What is Life?» is probably what should be the central question of biology. After all, the fancy term just means 'the study of life'. But biologists are having a notoriously hard time defining it. For example the jury is still out (well, at least in some camps) on whether to classify viruses as alive or not.

Here Lynn Margulis (yes, she of endosymbiont theory-fame) takes us through all the different ways one can look at the question of «What is Life?». If you have some deeper training in biology
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Pretty cool book with many interesting facts and suppositions about life. The main idea seems to be that the biosphere, viewed in its totality, is actually a single organism. What makes it such a compelling argument is the wealth of examples and descriptions she brings to bear of simpler organisms evolving to produce more complex organized life forms throughout evolutionary history. She argues that by extension, or perhaps induction, it is reasonable to arrive at, with the complex interconnected ...more
Jessica Kuzmier
This book is more philosophy book than a science one, which is not all that surprising considering its koan-like title. And like a koan, the question isn't really answered categorically but instead is pondered upon in narrative form. The authors utilize the timeline of natural history and evolution as a backdrop for their chronology, describing the crescendo of autopoiesis as it builds upon itself. Not quite a paean to the Gaia theory, they describe the theories of teleology and the emerging phi ...more
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
mind blow
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
It was good.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What is Life? A damn good question, and Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan do a fine job of answering it. Life is complexity, co-operation, and creativity. Behold the beauty of evolution and revel in its glory.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
A stimulating and thought provoking book that runs a thread of wonder into the small.
Pure vision, on this fascinating topic of life.
She and Dorion have successfully pulled together a new intellectual religious mystery.
Molly Brodak
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is really good--even and thorough, very smart. A bit new age-y in places for me, but still I felt like I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished it.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Much in the way of her late husband, Margulis uses her language with a passion and precision to fill the reader with a deep sense of awe and love for this most wonderful planet.
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Very enlightening. The photos or drawings are a visual feast. More of them would be even better...
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Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) was a Professor of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.

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