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Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth (1997)

by Richard A. Fortey

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1,1341212,136 (3.99)36
"Richard Fortey guides us from the barren globe spinning in space, through the very earliest signs of life in the sulphurous hot springs and volcanic vents of the young planet, the appearance of cells, the slow creation of an atmosphere and the evolution of myriad forms of plants and animals that could then be sustained, including the magnificent era of the dinosaurs, and on to the last moment before the debut of Homo sapiens." "Fortey weaves this history out of the most delicate traceries left in rock, stone and earth. He also explains how, on each aspect of nature and life, scientists have reached the understanding we have today, who made the key discoveries, who their opponents were and why certain ideas won."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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» See also 36 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Professor Fortey takes the reader on a chronological tour of the the biological history of earth. However, his story is not a boring slog through the strata, but an eclectic stroll among fascinating organisms. Fortey includes many asides in his narrative, including important aspects of geology, portraits of eccentric paleontologists and personal anecdotes about fossil hunting is unusual locations. This book manages to summarise paleontological controversies in a fair manner without bogging down the story. I found the author's descriptive writing style to be rich and lyrical. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Another really excellent piece of natural history writing by Fortey, this a clear, readable account of life on Earth from the beginning. ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 17, 2019 |
My impatience with this book was rarely the book's fault, but more often just friction coming from the fact that this is an evolution story for the lay reader, and I've already heard all the basic outlines so many times before. I'd bought this so many years ago, when the information would have been fresher, and I might have liked it better then. But, that's what it is.

There were some magical descriptive moments, and I appreciated some of the discussions on how scientific controversies were/are resolved. But a lot of familiar information plus some odd asides made large chunks of the book a slog.

Not sure exactly who I would recommend this to. In general, I think most readers would be better off reading a more recently written book. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Fortey's enthusiasm and humor kept things going when the text got a little too dense for me. It did seem to linger on the early life forms and then rush through the emergence of mammals and humans but I guess that's true of the actual time-line of life on earth itself. I liked that it included some background and anecdotes about the paleontologists and biologists who discovered and shaped so much of what we know about natural history today. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
Encyclopedic overview of a truly overwhelming topic. The author is clearly passionate about his topic, and communicates it wonderfully. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
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For Jackie, with my love
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Salterella dodged between the icebergs.
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Later subtitle: A natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth.
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The senior paleontologist at London's Natural History Museum presents an account of life on Earth from the Big Bang to the advent of humankind, based entirely on the evidence of fossils, stones, and other natural artifacts.
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