History of Science

Evolutionary Restraints: The Contentious History of Group Selection

by Mark E. Borrello
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 215 pages.

Concluding his review of Borrello’s history of group selection, E. G. Leigh Jr. summarizes: “Those acquainted with the group selection controversy might benefit from this book. I earned much of interest from it about various aspects of the controversy. On the other hand, it makes a poor introduction to the controversy, because it communicates a very inadequate understanding of why opponents of group selection were so sure that it could rarely be effective.

What about Darwin?

by Thomas F. Glick
Baltimore (MD): The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. 520 pages.

“With over four hundred passages from authors ranging from Henry Adams ...

Written in Stone

by Brian Switek
New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2010. 320 pages.

Reviewer Pat Shipman regards the individual chapters of Written in Stone as good, particularly the opening chapter on the overselling of Darwinius masillae: “For a student wanting to brush up quickly on, say, human or horse evolution, this book will be a treasure trove.” But she laments the lack of any overarching structure or theme to unify them.

Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls

by Sherrie Lynne Lyons
Albany (NY): State University of New York Press, 2009. 245 pages.

Reviewer A. Bowdoin Van Riper explains, “Lyons’s concern is with subjects from the outer edges of Victorian science: sea serpents, phrenology, spiritualism, and the spiritual dimensions (if any) of human evolution.

Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species

by Sean B. Carroll
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 352 pages.

“This is a history of evolutionary ideas over the last two centuries illustrated by the lives and the achievements of diverse individuals, many familiar but others less so,” reviewer Aubrey Manning explains.

Natural Selection & Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace

edited by Charles H. Smith and George Beccaloni
New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 482 pages.

Reviewer Sherrie Lyons describes Natural Selection & Beyond as “a valuable and welcome addition, elucidating the many different facets of this complicated and talented man.” The essays in the first part of the book consider Wallace as a field biologist and collector. The essays in the second part consider Wallace’s other interests, including his views on socialism, eugenics, and spiritualism.

Charles Darwin: After the Origin

by Sheila Ann Dean
Ithaca (NY): Paleontological Research Institution and Cornell University Library, 2009. 156 pages.

Dean’s book focuses on Darwin’s later years, and thus tells “a further story about Darwin’s accomplishments, some in quite esoteric fields (such as barnacles or earthworms and their effects in soils,” writes reviewer Sara B. Hoot.

Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything

by Doug Macdougall
Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, 2008. 288 pages.

“In Nature’s Clocks,” writes reviewer John W Geissman, “Doug Macdougall provides an exceptionally well-written and engaging description ... of how we know what we know about absolute age determinations and thus about our attempts to unravel the uncertainties of deep time.

Darwin’s Pictures: Views of Evolutionary Theory, 1837– 1874

by Julia Voss
New Haven (CT): Yale University Press, 2010. 340 pages.

Reviewer Keith Thomson summarizes, “As Darwin was a poor draftsman, Julia Voss’s Darwin’s Pictures is not a critical retrospective of the man as an artist.