Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys
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 classification in the eighteenth century to today's attempts to find life in space. The narrative telescopes from a scientist's attempt to find one single thing (a rare ant-emulating beetle species) to another scientist's attempt to find everything in a small patch of jungle in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. With poetry and humor, Dunn reminds readers how tough and exhilarating it is to study the natural world, and why it matters.
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I wanted to see what lurked between the far-off trees, where a little bird seemed
to call out my name.* One floor above us, in the same hotel, lived Sarah
Osterhoudt, then working for the New York Botanical Garden. Sarah introduced
us to the ...
That seemed well enough, except that, as Monica yelled to me over the sound of
the motor, “the Summer Linguistics Institute got kicked out of Bolivia twenty years
ago.” Too late. We were off, a thirty-year-old clunker of a plane, our four-person ...
At least they seemed to be, until we realized we had spent several days saying “
penis” instead of “eat.” Each morning we went out to learn with a local expert. To
our deep pleasure, there was much to see. We went out with several such men, ...
... seemed, at least in terms of the ants, unknown to Felipe as well. Of the few
hundred ant species around Cavinas, Felipe had names for perhaps forty, about
the same number that non indigenous peoples of more urban parts of the
Some seemed pure fiction (the little men in the termite mounds), but with other
stories, it was harder to know. One late night we heard the story of the giant
monkeys. As the children walked around burning incense to ward off mosquitoes,
one of ...
What people are saying - Write a review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - kaitanya64 - LibraryThing
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 ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - satyridae - LibraryThing
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 ... Read full review