[PDF / Epub] ★ Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth By Richard Fortey – Uroturk.info

Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth Beautifully written, informative, and evocative I ve never read Fortey before, and I will add his newer works to my to do list. This is my second book by Richard Fortey, retired paleontologist and science writer I complained in the past about Fortey s flowery writing style but once I settle into his books, I find myself enjoying it so I am not going to take any stars away For a science writer, he puts a lot of effort into his use of english to write what I find to be very engrossing science books about one of my favorite subjects, paleontology.I liked that the book focused on the little stuffthe microorganisms that transformed the earth during the proterozoic and the slow evolution of larger organisms in the oceans and the latter movement onto land that ended in the permian This incredibly long time period encapsulating many millions of years in geologic time is really what set the stage for everything that came after Dinosaurs, mammals and ultimately humans are not covered as extensively but still get their due.I own a copy of a large format picture book published by Dorling Kindersley titled Prehistoric Life The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth I found it very useful to follow along in this picture book as I read Life Fortey s chapters roughly covered geological time periodsordovician, devonian, etcwhich is how Prehistoric Life is laid out as well It was enlightening to see the actual fossils Fortey describes and just added to what I learned about this time period in earth s history.A thoroughly enjoyable overview of life on earth. Fortey, an exceptionally engaging science writer, takes us on a tour through four billion years of natural history His review is neither focused nor comprehensive but of a wide ranging travelogue touching on each period in evolutionary history and the author s explorations The high points are his evocative descriptions of landforms, flora and fauna both present and past We traverse the terrain with him on his fossil collecting expeditions to remote corners of the world where he describes what the earth and its inhabitants must have looked like in eras long ago For example, he takes your imagination to a primitive Carboniferous forest with giant millipedes and dragon flies as big as seagulls Fortey discusses the process and history of paleontology as he describes the progression of the flora and fauna through time He includes his own personal experience and that of other paleontologists It s a big topic and a short book so Fortey offers up selected bite sized portions of the activity of each era He describes the cyanobacteria and microbes that formed floating mats in the ocean 3,000 million years ago mya leaving their vestiges in fossilized stromatolites Then he moves onto the Cambrian period 520 mya , its explosion of multicellular life and his personal specialty, trilobites, about which he has a separate book So we get good coverage of these extinct arthropods along with graptolites and other creatures that prospered in the Ordovician After 60% of marine species expire at the end of the Ordovician 443 mya , Fortey moves on to the Silurian when bony fish proliferate and plants and animals invade the coasts, streams and rivers ending with the conquest of land in the Devonian Sadly a late Devonian extinction 375 mya left only one order of Forty s beloved trilobites Fortey then gives us a succinct overview of the dinosaurs and their demise in the Permian extinction 250 mya which also took out the last trilobite after a 270 million year run Lastly he covers mammals that interest him including hominids right up to the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.While a fun quick spin through the eras, I do have some quibbles It s difficult to keep track of the flow of life from period to period amidst Fortey s frequent diversions into the history of fossil discovery and his personal expeditions Also, he often refers just to the period name without dates I found myself going on line frequently to be sure I had the time periods and their creatures in proper relation to each other The book lacks time line charts, an odd omission, although it has many excellent pictures of specimens and locations His use of extended analogies often seems contrived In one case he compares the rise and demise of animals in the ecosystem to the changes in orchestras as new instruments appeared and old ones disappeared over the centuries In another he compares the ever increasing size of dinosaurs to the trend of ever bigger black pepper grinders in Italian restaurants I would have been happier with less fluff Still I enjoyed the book Other readers may find his style a welcome relief from books that can overwhelm with one scientific detail after another. I love the combination of autobiography and science in this book I love Richard Fortey s writing style and I appreciate his sense of humour Because of this book, I still have a strong desire to see Spitzbergen I have always loved paleontology and use this book as a basis for the teaching that I have done on the subject.I have found it a very useful starting point for further research on the fossils which catch my attention It is starting to show its age, as science moves on and a lot has been discovered since the book s publication, but it still provides a thoughtful history of life on earth. My brother realizes I am a paleontology geek, so I was hooked to Life the moment I picked it up Like Fortey, I revel in the minutiae of life s march through the ages, from the Pre Cambian, Ediacarian fauna Spriggina, a possible precursor to trilobites, to the effects of bolides, which will really ruin your day. This isn t my favourite of Fortey s books, possibly because I ve read similar types of books by other writers before, so he isn t bringing me a new subject I don t expect to like in the same way as he was in his books about geology, or a key passion of his as in his book about trilobites though trilobites have their place here, too, as you d expect with Fortey Still, I enjoy the way he writes and the way he draws together his themes, and this isn t a bad book it s just that he and others have covered a lot of this ground before.Actually, my favourite history of evolution type book is Richard Dawkins The Ancestor s Tale When Dawkins sticks to science, he s great When he decides to comment on twitter, rarely so That s just a quirk of the way he organises it, though, while Fortey s method is a little less organised, lingering on things of special interest to him Which is fine, but didn t work so well for me in this case That, and he doesn t deal with DNA as much as I d like, because that s my special interest and not his.Nonetheless, Fortey knows his stuff and how to make it enjoyable, though I think I can understand people who complain about his writing style not being easy I tend to take it slow and savour it, myself. With Life An Unauthorized Biography, British palaeontologist Richard Fortey attempts to pen down four billion years of life and evolution on earth for his readers in only 400 pages total An ambitious aim, to be sure, and one that Fortey manages to live up to, though perhaps not in ways everybody might ve expected and there s no doubt that he s had to sacrifice a large amount of detail in order to fit four billion years into 400 pages.First and foremost, this is in no way a book that can be considered an academic textbook, since Fortey spends a lot of time weaving his own story as a beginning scientist through his tales of life s history I didn t find this annoying or distracting, because I enjoyed the wonderment and enthusiasm it brought me via his own personal experiences, especially when he starts detailing his first big findings and expeditions However, I can imagine that some readers, especially those with advanced knowledge of the field, might be looking for something than the image of a joyous young Fortey digging up his first trilobite In short, something in a format closer to that of a textbook or a scientific book, giving information and scrapping a lot of the autobiographical parts.I didn t mind this though, and thought it brought a lot of life no pun intended to the book Fortey s style of writing was quite accessible, and his passion and enthusiasm for his own field of work managed to spark my interest even as I read on Very engaging, though I did have problems with the fact that Fortey always refers to practically every single species that turns up by its Latin name, sometimes without explaining what the life form in question actually is or in a very vague manner And I, being thecurious and intelligent but perhaps mildly uninformed readerthat s described on the back cover of my edition with emphasis on the uninformed , couldn t always keep up with this It led to many frustrated look ups, and made me wonder why do this if curious yet uninformed people are your aimed audience Another thing that bothered me is that Fortey doesn t provide any information on scientists and or researchers other than himself who have had a hand in providing the information that we now have on the origin and development of life Along with the references and sources that, well, simply weren t present, this felt like something that was truly missing from the book.Anyhow, let s get back to the other good parts, shall we I liked both style and most of the general substance in this book, and was particularly smitten with the chapters on the very earliest stages of life, and those on dinosaurs Throughout this entire book, Fortey also stresses the importance of the fossil record, and how much we can actually learn from it I also thought the links he made to plate tectonics to be superb, but I might be a little biased here since that is one of my own favourite topics.In conclusion, I thought this was a solid read and I think Fortey was brave when attempting to write something like this Though near impossible, he sincerely tries to provide his audience with as many details as he can within the confines of 400 pages, yet ultimately fails a little in this goal His enthusiasm was catching, I enjoyed the book wholeheartedly, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a book on life s history with an autobiographical tone. An absolutely fantastic book that I would recommend to everyone, everywhere, from late high school on Fortey turns entire epochs into captivating stories that make me immediately want His exploration of the Ordovician and Carboniferous were particularly captivating Being a 1998 book, there were a few things that seemed dated, but none of those small issues took away from the sweeping magnitude of the overall story Should particularly be required to be read by anyone you hear espousing creationist, intelligent design , other flat earth nonsense I might start this again right now Great book but as much as I enjoyed it I d recommend one of his recent books instead Fortey is one of those rare science writers that combines a gift for explanation with the rare feat of being a great writer and often invokes a Saganesque beauty of science His description of tetrapods wandering across Pangaea as perfectly pandemic perambulation and his constant inclusion of numberless quotes of fine literature and poetry sucks the reader in in a way another British science author, who shall not be named, has always failed miserly at The religious language used in chapter two and in the conclusion as a means to show how an acceptance of science need not contradict ones beliefs was, I admit, a bit distasteful for a godless heathen like myself, but it s all for a good cause, is brief and is done is a way tasteful enough to make me consider giving this book to my science hostile friends in hopes that Fortey can win them over The thing I like best is Fortey s rather valiant attempt to give each period of geologic time the attention it deserves rather than concentrating on what is only most interesting to us humans and focusing on that disproportionately Sure, most science books I ve read mention how single cell life makes up most of our biologic history and how very long the process of oxygenation of the atmosphere really took but it s always a fleeting mention whereas Fortey really makes you feel and appreciate the long passage of time these things entail Fortey has a gift for really fleshing out the history of life on Earth and really making one appreciate the immense scale of geologic time in a way most pop science books do not. A New York Times Book Review Editors Choice Extraordinary Anyone With The Slightest Interest In Biology Should Read This Book The New York Times Book Review A Marvelous Museum Of The Past Four Billion Years On Earth Capacious, Jammed With Treasures, Full Of Learning And Wide Eyed Wonder The Boston GlobeFrom Its Origins On The Still Forming Planet To The Recent Emergence Of Homo Sapiens One Of The World S Leading Paleontologists Offers An Absorbing Account Of How And Why Life On Earth Developed As It Did Interlacing The Tale Of His Own Adventures In The Field With Vivid Descriptions Of Creatures Who Emerged And Disappeared In The Long March Of Geologic Time, Richard Fortey Sheds Light Upon A Fascinating Array Of Evolutionary Wonders, Mysteries, And Debates Brimming With Wit, Literary Style, And The Joy Of Discovery, This Is An Indispensable Book That Will Delight The General Reader And The Scientist Alike A Drama Bolder And Sweeping Than Gone With The Wind A Pleasure To Read Science A Beautifully Written And Structured Work Packed With Lucid Expositions Of Science Natural History


About the Author: Richard Fortey

Richard Fortey is a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London and a Fellow of the Royal Society He was Collier Professor in the Public Understanding of Science and Technology at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Bristol in 2002 His books have been widely acclaimed Life A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth Knopf was short


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