Wednesday 8 May 2013

Never too old to learn

Recently, comedian/actor Bill Bailey presented two documentaries on BBC2 to highlight the important, but forgotten, role played by Alfred Russel Wallace in the publishing of the theory of evolution. Not only did he arrive at the same conclusions as Charles Darwin (though admittedly 20 years later), he also added the vital piece of the jigsaw that allowed his slow-to-publish idol to complete the puzzle.

During the programmes, much was made of the Wallace Line, the boundary between the fauna of Asia and that of Australia. This was something of which I knew nothing and left me wondering what else I could learn from the history of natural science.

To that end, I drew up a hasty, and makeshift, short list of iconic books covering three centuries of natural history.


With which to edumificate the enthusiasm-rich but knowledge-poor Tense.


It's not an exhaustive list, I'm open to alternative suggestions, but here's my five must-reads:

The Natural History of Selborne (1788-9) by Gilbert White

The Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin

Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson

Gaia (1979) by James Lovelock

Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo (2009) by Michael McCarthy

I'll let you know how I fare, just don't expect the blog to experience a sudden and monumental rise in scientific rigour and factual accuracy. Never forget, since 2009, Imperfect and Tense has been the home of this.


Martin said...

I could recommend Mapping the Deep (Robert Kunzig) as being easy to read and fascinating. I have a copy at home which I could lend next time I am visiting both my UK residences.. (home and MK!)

Darwin and the Barnacle is good too. I struggled with Origin of Species and need to pick it up again.

We also read The Crucible of Creation (Conway-Morris) at university which wasn't bad.

If you read and can recommend any of the above I'd be interested to hear too.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Hmmm... the Tense Book Club sounds more like a review forum for dark, moody, espionage thrillers.

But, yeah, there will be feedback!

Thanks for the suggestions :o)

biobabbler said...

Ooh, a Tense Book Club. Sounds super fun.

As a card carrying Conservation Biologist, I am SO not copping to how many of those I've NOT read. Good reminder to shove things into head, slowly and steadily. =)

(If you were to establish & share deadlines for reading book X or Y, some of us procrastinators might benefit mightily, tho' I don't suppose Slacker Biologist Help is the point of your bloggage...)

biobabbler said...

Oh, and this may be a little obscure, but is where I read about the theory of the evolution of senescence and death (I know, sounds fun)--it was FASCINATING.

Williams, G.C. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.

Per The Wiki, he did no less than "contributed to the development of a gene-centered view of evolution." SO major. Thanks to my advisor, got to have lunch w/this tall, quiet man (kinda how I image Abe Lincoln was), so I ate pizza and just listened.

He is the MAN!!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology

Imperfect and Tense said...

Crivens! My throw away line has taken on a life of its own. Eek! As I've never actually been involved in a book club, this could either be a brilliant idea or the polar opposite (Ice Station Zebra, anyone?).

And what's the first rule of Tense Book Club? Er... never knowingly turn down Slacker Biologist Help!

I'm guessing chronology could be quite relevant, so how does the following sound...? Books in date order. One per month, starting in June. Do we need a spoiler clause? No comments in the first 2 weeks of each book?

Er... there's supposed to a point to my bloggage!? O-oh.

Imperfect and Tense said...

A book suggestion AND provenance. Classy.
Lincoln and pizza in same sentence. Genius.

Imperfect and Tense said...

[hastily G**gles title]... wow, that's gonna take some discussing. Good choice!