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parsed(2024-04-09) - pubdate: 03/24
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pub date: 1712638800
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Every Living Thing

The Great and Deadly Race to Know All Life

April 9, 2024 | Hardcover
ISBN: 9780385666800
$42.00
Reader Reward Price: $37.80 info
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Description

From the bestselling author of A Sense of the World comes this dramatic, globe-spanning and meticulously-researched story of two scientific rivals and their race to survey all life on Earth.

In the 18th century, two men dedicated their lives to the same daunting task: identifying and describing all life on Earth. Their approaches could not have been more different. Carl Linnaeus, a pious Swedish doctor with a huckster's flair, believed that life belonged in tidy, static categories. Georges-Louis de Buffon, an aristocratic polymath and keeper of France's royal garden, viewed life as a dynamic swirl of complexities. Both began believing their work to be difficult, but not impossible--how could the planet possibly hold more than a few thousand species? Stunned by life's diversity, both fell far short of their goal. But in the process they articulated starkly divergent views on nature, on humanity's role in shaping the fate of our planet and on humanity itself.  

The rivalry between these two unique, driven individuals created reverberations that still echo today. Linnaeus, with the help of acolyte explorers he called "apostles" (only half of whom returned alive), gave the world such concepts as mammal, primate and homo sapiens--but he also denied species change and promulgated racist pseudo-science. Buffon coined the term reproduction, formulated early prototypes of evolution and genetics, and argued passionately against prejudice. It was a clash that, during their lifetimes, Buffon seemed to be winning. But their posthumous fates would take a very different turn.

With elegant, propulsive prose grounded in more than a decade of research, featuring appearances by Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Darwin, bestselling author Jason Roberts tells an unforgettable true-life tale of intertwined lives and enduring legacies, tracing an arc of insight and discovery that extends across three centuries into the present day.

About this Author

JASON ROBERTS is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. His previous book, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler, was a national bestseller and finalist for the National Book Critic Circle Award. He is the inaugural winner of the Van Zorn Prize (awarded by Michael Chabon) and a contributor to McSweeney's, The Believer, and other publications. He lives in Northern California.

ISBN: 9780385666800
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 432
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Published: 2024-04-09

Reviews

"A lively, panoramic contribution to the history of science."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] vibrant scientific saga. . . . At once important, outrageous, enlightening, entertaining, enduring and still evolving." --Dava Sobel, author of Longitude

"An epic account of an impossible scientific undertaking and a rare blend of deep research, page-turning storytelling and the beauty of the natural world. . . . Every Living Thing brings history to vivid life and animates an essential story with an ever-present sense of wonder." --Charles Duhigg, author of Supercommunicators and The Power of Habit

"A skillfully told, ambitious-in-the-best-possible-way tale about hubris, curiosity, rivalry and deep, deep obsession. . . . The impossible race between these two men to catalogue the entirety of the natural world winds up illuminating some of the best and worst stuff about being human." --Jon Mooallem, author of This Is Chance!

"Jason Roberts brings an amazing episode in the European scientific enlightenment of the 1700s to life in following the entwined careers of Buffon and Linnaeus. . . . Jason Roberts strides confidently through a great sweep of history, introducing all the characters with verve and humour." --Dr. Mike Benton, paleontologist at the University of Bristol

"[An] engaging and thought-provoking book, one focused on the theatrical politics and often deeply troubling science that shape our definitions of life on Earth." --New York Times Book Review

"[An] enthralling look at a pivotal period in the history of biology." --Publishers Weekly

"A fluent and engaging account of the 18th-century origins of Darwinism before Darwin." --Wall Street Journal

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