Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review: Into The Jungle - Great Adventures In The Search For Evolution

          The process of doing science makes for some wonderful stories. In his book, “Into The Jungle: Great Adventures in the Search of Evolution,” renowned scientist Sean B. Carroll tells some of the stories behind great discoveries in evolution. The most famous story of all, the story of Charles Darwin, involved a five-year journey around the world, during which Darwin collected and observed plants, animals, and fossils from all places of the world. After going home again, Darwin then spent twenty years categorizing his discoveries, eventually publishing “The Origin of Species,” in which he laid out a truly revolutionary theory of evolution by natural selection. Charles Darwin and the voyage of the Beagle is the most famous story of evolutionary biology. But there are others. Some of these stories include that of Alfred Russell Wallace, who spent years in the jungles of the Amazon River Basin and the Malay archipelago, collecting and observing. He too formed a theory of evolution that was similar to Charles Darwin, a fact that spurred Darwin to finally publish his theory.

          All told, the book “Into The Jungle” tells the story behind the science. We get to see Darwin as a bright curious boy with an inability to pay attention. We get to see Darwin as he is traveling around the world, seeing some of the oddities that later spurred him to develop his particular theory of evolution. We get to see Wallace in the jungle, collecting specimens and coming up with his idea of “survival of the fittest.” So too do we get to see some of the smaller forgotten stories – Roy Chapman Andrews launching a massive expedition that uncovered dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer discovering the living remains of a fish long thought to be extinct, and the father-son team of Walter and Luis Alvarez teaming together to uncover evidence of a massive extinction event that lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs. All told, there are nine stories. 
          “Into The Jungle” is not a textbook. It is a book that will teach you something but it is not a book that assumes you have a background in biology. Instead, it is a book that shows the human side of research – the struggles and triumphs that are at the root every great discovery.


  1. Thanks for the review! I'll have to check that out. I'd like to know more about Darwin as a boy and as a man.

    1. I think you'll enjoy it - it's a really lovely book. A pleasure to read.


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