Eight little piggies : reflections in natural history

by Stephen Jay Gould

Hardcover, 1993




New York : Norton, 1993.


This collection of essays ranges from history to the latest theories in biology, from controversies over palaeontology to the origins of language. The title is a pun and as always with Gould, the joke has a point that illustrates the largest pattern of life's history. For millennia, the animals that populated the Earth had four toes on each foot, or six. If evolution had taken a tiny shift - if man's ancestors had inherited a couple of genes in a different form - our canonical number, based on man's fingers and toes, might be eight instead of ten. Stephen Jay Gould has also written Wonderful Life, Bully for Brontosaurus and Finders Keepers.

User reviews

LibraryThing member monado
Essays on nature, evolution, human nature, extinction, anatomy, forgotten or mis-understood figures in science, etc. Well written.
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
First time I've read this one - I read and re-read Gould constantly, but this one was new to me. There were some interesting elements - the essays about the intertwining of new facts and new theories were good. And of course the bit (familiar from other books, but presented in a slightly different
Show More
way here) about looking at an entire theory rather than a strawman selection from it, to understand why it was wrong and has been superseded.
Show Less
LibraryThing member iayork
A very human science writer: Gould was an expert in writing about science in a way that ordinary, not-particularly-scientific readers could comprehend, at least in a general way. But more than that, he linked the science to anecdotes that readers could not only understand, but also identify with.
LibraryThing member bragan
This collection of Gould's essays was published in 1993, but contains material from as far back as 1989. As with all his collections, the focus is on evolutionary biology, but he ranges pretty far across that subject. Sometimes he's focusing on small scientific details, which he uses to make
Show More
broader points. Sometimes he's poking into odd corners of scientific history and shedding light on the lives of the people involved, especially when he feels they've been misunderstood in some way. A couple of the essays appear to be about completely unrelated things -- Mozart's musical prodigy, or the unreliability of Gould's own childhood memories -- but he always brings even those digressions back around to his main theme in unexpectedly graceful ways.

As always, his writing is both enthusiastic and wonderfully erudite. I don't know quite what it is about Gould, but somehow I always feels smarter after reading him.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JBD1
More of Gould's essays from Natural History, mostly (loosely) focused on evolution. Enjoyable as usual, but also some getting a bit dated now.



Page: 0.3001 seconds