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What Evolution is
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Ernst Mayr was the leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th century. He was Professor Emeritus at the Zoology Department of Harvard University and for twenty-three years served as Curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He died in February 2005 in Massachusetts.

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Mayr (emeritus, Harvard Univ.; This Is Biology) has written a clear, comprehensive, and very informative introduction to the theory of evolution. He offers major insights into taxonomy, adaptation, common descent, biodiversity, and those mechanisms of organic evolution that result in the process of speciation. His analysis points out important contributions that molecular biology and population thinking have made to both understanding and appreciating modern Darwinism. Mayr stresses that an individual organism is the unit of natural selection, while a population is the unit of biological evolution. He rejects essentialism (typology), creationism, and teleology (orthogenesis) and gives much attention to the various aspects of macroevolution. Other topics discussed include extinction, mosaic evolution, exobiology, and the roles that both chance and necessity play in organic evolution. Of special interest is a chapter on human evolution. Mayr presents the empirical evidence substantiating hominid evolution, as well as the most recent scientific interpretation for the emergence of our species over the past five million years from an apelike ancestral group in Africa. This significant contribution to science will be of enormous value to anyone interested in evolution. Strongly recommended for all academic and public library science collections. H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

At age 97, Ernst Mayr is one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century, and here he delivers yet another valuable addition to the field of evolutionary theory. Mayr, who was also a curator at the American Museum of Natural History for two decades, guides lay readers through evolutionary thought from the book of Genesis and creationist theory through Darwin's theories and "soft" evolution and on to more contemporary, inclusive concepts. He takes readers on a whirlwind voyage from the scala naturae (the Great Chain of Being, in which everything in the world was accorded a position in a developmental hierarchy) to Mayr's own work, which builds on Darwinian theory and environmental factors. No one but Mayr could explain evolution so well, and though the text is peppered with many scientific terms, overall the author is triumphant in his goal to teach "first and foremost... biologist or not, [anyone] who simply wants to know more about evolution." While many authors suggest their tomes are the authoritative source, Mayr remains humble, reminding readers that "many details remain controversial." And the combination of his expertise, his elegant prose and the sheer pleasure of so many enthralling facts (the 145-million-year-old Archaeopteryx is a near perfect link between reptiles and birds, for example) means that studying the fossil record has rarely been so absorbing. Appendixes answer FAQs and respond to various objections to evolutionary theory, while a glossary offers entries from acoelomate to zygote. (Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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