Life's Splendid Drama: Evolutionary Biology and the Reconstruction of Life's Ancestry, 1860-1940

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, 15. nov 1996 - 525 pages
In 1928, paleontologist William Diller Matthew wrote, "The story of life on earth is a splendid drama". This story has captivated generations of biologists, including those working in the years immediately following publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. Yet histories of the Darwinian revolution have ignored the main nineteenth-century application of evolution: the attempt to reconstruct the history of life on earth. Now Peter J. Bowler seeks to recover some of this lost history in Life's Splendid Drama, the definitive account of evolutionary morphology and its relationships with paleontology and biogeography. As Bowler tracks major scientific debates over the emergence of the vertebrates, the origins of the main types of living animals, and the rise and extinction of groups such as the dinosaurs, his richly detailed accounts bring to light complex interactions among specialists in various fields of biology. Charting the role of Darwin's ideas and the degree and direction of their influence, Bowler shows how these interactions constituted an interdisciplinary program with a focus on reconstructing the past rather than on mechanisms of evolutionary change. Bowler also examines the socially laden metaphors used by early biologists to describe the history of life, and argues that such usage influenced the development of modern evolutionism by exploiting Darwinian principles outside the context of the genetical theory of natural selection. Much of the rhetoric of "social Darwinism" may thus have been derived not directly from natural selection theory but from the application of Darwinian principles to the rise and fall of different animal groups over time. Bowler's magisterialwork will appeal to historians of science and ideas and also to biologists - particularly those working in evolutionary biology, paleontology, and systematicsinterested in the roots of their disciplines, as well as to the many readers fascinated by Darwin and his influence.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

Life's splendid drama: evolutionary biology and the reconstruction of life's ancestry, 1860-1940

Kasutaja arvustus  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Bowler (Norton History of Environmental Sciences, LJ 8/93) has written a comprehensive and critical survey of evolutionary thought (l860-l940) that stresses the movement in phylogenetic research from ... Read full review

Contents

THE FIRST EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY
1
THE TREE OF LIFE
40
ARE THE ARTHROPODA A NATURAL GROUP?
97
VERTEBRATE ORIGINS
141
FROM FISH TO AMPHIBIAN
203
THE ORIGIN OF BIRDS AND MAMMALS
259
PATTERNS IN THE PAST
313
THE GEOGRAPHY OF LIFE
371
THE METAPHORS OF EVOLUTION
419
BIOGRAPHICAL APPENDIX
447
BIBLIOGRAPHY
461
INDEX
511
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 489 - On Critical Periods in the History of the Earth and their Relation to Evolution: and on the Quaternary as such a Period," may be found an excellent rejoinder of Prof.

About the author (1996)

Peter J. Bowler is professor emeritus of the history of science at Queen's University Belfast. He has written many books, including Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World Without Darwin, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and A History of the Future: Prophets of Progress from H. G. Wells to Isaac Asimov.

Bibliographic information