Last and First Men

by Olaf Stapledon
London: Libri, 1999. 307 pages.

First published in 1930, Last and First Men stretches over two billion years to describe the career of no fewer than eighteen species of human beings, beginning with the First Men, Homo sapiens. John Maynard Smith writes, "A book which probably had a bigger influence on me than anything I've ever read was written in 1933 [sic] by a man called Olaf Stapledon and called Last and First Men. It's quite an extraordinary book. ... This book completely blew my mind when I read it at the age of 15 or so. It made me fascinated in genetics, fascinated in evolution, and I suppose it's as much as anything else responsible for where I am standing today."