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Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  782 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Microcosmos brings together the remarkable discoveries of microbiology of the past two decades and the pioneering research of Dr. Margulis to create a vivid new picture of the world that is crucial to our understanding of the future of the planet. Addressed to general readers, the book provides a beautifully written view of evolution as a process based on interdependency a ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 29th 1997 by University of California Press (first published 1986)
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Brian Griffith
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
A great exploration of the greatest force in the evolution of life, namely synergy between creatures, which accounts for the great leaps between sub-cellular life forms and cells with organs, the leap to multi-cellular organisms, and all the advances in synergy among communities of plants or animals, and the synergy of humans in families, communities, nations, and beyond. This is an understanding of the positive force in evolution that Darwin anticipated in his "Descent of Man," and it puts "rea ...more
Bob Nichols
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book reads like a summing up of her (she co-authored with her son) long work as a pre-eminent biologist. (1) Life, Margulis writes, is autopoietic, by which she means that it actively maintains “itself against the mischief of the world. Life responds to disturbance, using matter and energy to stay intact. An organism constantly exchanges its parts, replacing its component chemicals without ever losing its identity. This modulating, ‘holistic’ phenomenon of autopoiesis, of active self-mainten ...more
Loek Vellekoop
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
clear writing and very immersive. Lynn Margulis takes you to the realm of microscopic life, and offers a view on evolution trough cooperation. well put arguments against a view on evolution that only concerns the individual, as she shows that the whole concept of a individual is troublesome.
Erik Graff
Oct 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: evolutionary theory fans
Recommended to Erik by: Tom Miley
Shelves: sciences
Tom Miley, his older brother and I once shared an apartment in East Rogers Park, Chicago. Both the Miley brothers are, like myself, dissatisfied with themselves and both have striven mightily to make improvement. Much, but not all, of this effort has been along the lines of self-education in the common sense of going to schools, reading lots of books, writing and talking about one's studies. We have long inspired and comforted one another. We have, despite their moves to San Francisco and Sonoma ...more
Mike Smith
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Life has existed on Earth for nearly 4 billion years. For 80% of that time, according to Microcosmos, it consisted solely of pre-cellular and single-celled organisms. Authors Margulis and Sagan give a convincing and engrossing account of how atoms and molecules on the early Earth may have coalesced and combined, eventually forming more complex molecules that could make copies of themselves. Through a variety of chemical interactions, these complex molecules combined together to form bacterial ce ...more
Julene
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Read many years ago as part of my study and practice of Continuum. She is a biologist and it resonates with the micromovement and being in contact with your body at a cellular level, including the microtubules.
Glenn
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
anyone w/high school experience can read and appreciate this book
Keygan
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Note: Keep in mind that it's a little outdated, as it's fairly old for a science book. Despite that, it was a fantastic read. Provocative and even mindblowing at times. ...more
Naureen K.
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Okay I have my reasons for giving it 3 stars. #1 and most important reason: I read this book for a class. Maybe if I had picked it up for myself and read it for fun and with more knowledge about what I was getting into with this book, I would've probably enjoyed it more. #2, there was times I was reading where I felt like going "what" because some claims in this book seemed so far fetched my mind couldn't comprehend. There were so many holes in here; everytime the author wrote "this MIGHT have b ...more
Nola
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Microcosmos is a history of evolution from the viewpoint of the bacteria. It made me realize how accustomed I have become to reading books into which authors insert themselves. They travel to various places to research their books and they tell about what they learn from their point of view. The authors of this book, in contrast, seemed strangely absent, or behind the scenes. There are just a few humorous phrases to convey a feeling of Microcosmos coming from real actual people. Grade school tex ...more
Morgan
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was comforting for me to realize after reading this '80s classic that micro-biotic life is smarter than we are. Its uber mind sees a much bigger picture and created humans, and all life that one can see with the naked eye for that matter (1%), as metaphorical transit mechanisms, cities, condominiums, shopping centers... I could only conclude that after we have destroyed our environment, and ourselves and our fellow creatures along with it, this microbial planet will recover rather quickly in ...more
Susan
Jun 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
We are colonies of creatures whose silent intelligence is unfathomable. I am life teeming within; I am made of colonies quietly guiding me. Cooperative colonies may make up many of my organs. My brain is an organ. In this book I saw humanity's innate drive to define 'me' vs 'them' -- in the very way that life began and became life. I can not be certain but I feel that the aliens are nothing compared to the strangers that create me. Interior vs exterior, us vs them, is the inherent metaphor that ...more
Skylar
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The authors of Microcosmos provide a fascinating look into the role the bacteria have played on Earth, both influencing the larger environment and life itself. Unfortunately, the last two chapters go a bit off the rails, where the authors try to speculate that humans, cooperating with each other in space exploration, will become the equivalent microbes beyond Earth. While I think there is potential with that argument, it just didn't fit with the rest of the book and dragged on for too long. ...more
Joska Pista
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A good book. Though I am a biologist I learnt a lot, some totally new viewpoints. Sometimes a bit not 100% scientific to me with not rock solid ideas.
Justin
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well written but not that dense
Jessica Kuzmier
Is the biosphere about survival of the fittest, or that of cooperation?

Lynn Margulis, one of the founding scientists of the philosophy endosymbiosis, believes the latter is true. In fact, without the general cooperation that resides in genetic exchange in the microbial world, Margulis believes that life would never be able to exist.

‘Microcomos’, a book that she co-wrote with her son and science writer Dorion Sagan, is a treatise which expounds upon this theory. The narrative takes the reader
...more
Kathline
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Microcosmos inspired in me a real awe for the complexity and the durability of this small world. We are literally swarming with microbes, and there isn’t much we touch that isn’t also teeming with them. We are intimately involved with the microbial world, from the moment the sperm cell with its flagellum (likely inherited from spirochetes, according to Margulis) punctures the egg—to when we rejoin the earth and are consumed by and reissued from, microbes. Since it is a book written toward a non- ...more
Daniel Aguilar
One of those mind-bending books that make you rethink many things about yourself, about the world... inspiring, entertaining, exciting...
The authors make an excellent job at taking ideas from many different thinkers and scientists (Lovelock, Darwin, von Neumann, Dawkins... ) and create a coherent narrative that takes the reader (relatively) easily through disciplines such as biology, cybernetics, anthropology and more. At some points the arguments seem to get a bit too far, a bit too speculativ
...more
Ian Espinoso
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This and the Tree of Knowledge, from Maturana and Varela, were the books that ushered me into Environmental Engineering when I was barely 15. Lynn Margulis' love for live is contagious, and it goes from a molecular level to modern society. It is a tiny book, and still deep enough to throw you 5 billion years ago, and make you whole again with life itself. No wonder Carl Sagan fell in love with this woman. ...more
M
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
I might not recommend it for the casual reader but I really liked it. I appreciated the picture of the biosphere as a place of balance, a universe of microbes. Lower organisms have no clue that they make up us higher organisms (and vice-versa).
Jenny Wehinger
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
It will change the way to see living systems for sure! An excellent eye-opener.

Spacemummy
Dec 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
I'm hot for microbes! ...more
Ellen
Sep 01, 2008 is currently reading it
Standing on the shoulders of micro-organisms...
Brenda
Oct 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
Nice book, but, unfortunately, some of it is a little out of date now.
Kate
Jun 16, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: shelved
I had to return it to the library. I'll hit it again later... ...more
Tim
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Good source for the story of microbial evolution and the path to animals etc but the far too long philosophical and speculative section later in the book really detracts from the whole.
Dave
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Especially enjoyed the first several chapters that discussed early evolution. Her projections for the future were less interesting.
Shaun
Jul 10, 2014 marked it as to-read
published in 1997 so a good bit of it may be outdated... may still be a good read though.
Bart
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting hypotheses.
Janelle
One of the most important books I've ever read! ...more
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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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