It might sound crass to write that the COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest in a long line of infectious disease outbreaks, but a little perspective helps. Historian Kyle Harper previously impressed me with his study on
. In the role of climate and disease in the decline of the Roman Empire Plagues Upon the Earth, he offers a global, multidisciplinary environmental history of infectious disease, showing that it is a force that has both shaped and been shaped by human history. This magnificent book stood out as much for its nuance and academic rigour as it did for its readability.
environmental history, history and tagged adaptive immunity, adenoviruses, Aedes aegypti, Aedes mosquitoes, Africa, African slavery, agriculture, AIDS, Alfred Russell Wallace, ancient DNA, Andes mountains, Anopheles arabiensis, Anopheles atroparvus, Anopheles coluzzi, Anopheles funestus, Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles mosquitoes, Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Anthropocene, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, antibodies, Antonine Plague, archaeology, Asia, Atlantic Ocean, Aztec civilization, bacteria, bats, Benjamin Franklin, beta thalassemia, bilharzia, birds, Black Death, black rats, book review, bovine tuberculosis, Brazil, bubonic plague, camels, Canada, Caribbean Sea, cattle, Charles Darwin, chickenpox, chickens, chimpanzees, China, chlorination, cholera, Christopher Columbus, cinchona bark, climate, climate change, coffee, colonialism, Columbian exchange, common cold, coronavirus, coronaviruses, COVID-19, crops, crowd diseases, Culex mosquitoes, DDT, demography, dengue fever, desinfectants, diarrhea, diarrheal diseases, diphtheria, Diptera, disease, disease ecology, disease vectors, DNA, dogs, domestication, donkeys, drinking water, Duffy negativity, dysentery, Ebola virus, economic growth, economic inequality, economics, Edward Jenner, Edward Long, Edwin Chadwick, Egypt, elephantiasis, empires, endemic diseases, England, environmental history, epidemics, epidemiology, Europe, evolution, faeces, falciparum malaria, famine, farming, feudalism, filariasis, fire, fish, flaviviruses, fleas, flies, fungi, Galen, genetics, genomics, geography, gerbils, Germany, globalisation, gorillas, governments, Gregory of Tours, haemoglobin, health, helminths, hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, herpes B, herpesviruses, Hippocrates, Hippocratic medicine, history, HIV, Holocene, Homo erectus, hookworm, horizontal gene transfer, horses, hospitals, houseflies, human evolution, hunter-gathering, hygiene, Ibn Khaldūn, immune system, immunity, imperialism, India, Indian Ocean, Industrial Revolution, industrialisation, infectious diseases, influenza, innate immunity, inoculation, insecticides, Ireland, iron, Iron Age, Italy, jails, Jamaica, Japan, Jared Diamond, Johann Peter Franck, John McNeill, John of Ephesus, John Pringle, Joseph Lister, Justinian plague, leishmaniasis, leprosy, leptospirosis, Levant, lice, liver, London, Louis Pasteur, Louis-René Villermé, lungs, lymphatic filariasis, maize, malaria, Malthusian cycles, Manchus, Mansonia mosquitoes, marmots, mass mortality, Massachusetts, Mayflower (ship), medicine, Mediterranean Sea, mental asylums, Mexico, microbes, microbiology, migration, milk, Ming Dynasty, missionaries, molecular clock, molecular phylogenetics, Mongols, monkeys, morbiliviruses, mortality, mosquitoes, Mughals, mumps, Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleonic wars, Neolithic, Ochlerotatus mosquitoes, Ottoman empire, Ottomans, Pacific Ocean, palaeoanthropology, palaeodemography, palaeogenetics, palaeogenomics, palaeopathology, pandemics, parasites, parasitism, parasitology, paratyphoid fever, Paris, pathogens, Persia, Peru, pharmaceutical drugs, phylogenetics, pigs, plague, plantations, Pleistocene, polio, polio virus, poliomyelitis, Portugal, potato blight, potatoes, poverty, primates, primatology, Princeton University Press, protozoans, public goods, public health, public hygiene, Qing Dynasty, quarantine, quasispecies, rabies, railroads, railways, rats, red water fever, refrigeration, relapsing fever, respiratory infections, rhinoviruses, rice, rinderpest, Robert Koch, rodents, Roman empire, rotaviruses, rubella, Russia, Salmonella, Samuel Pepys, sanitation, SARS-CoV-2, scarlet fever, schistosomiasis, Scotland, sexually transmitted disease (STD), sheep, shigella, shigellosis, sickle cell anemia, skin, slave trade, slavery, sleeping sickness, smallpox, snail fever, snails, Song Dynasty, South America, Spain, Spanish influenza pandemic, squirrels, steamships, sugar, sugarcane, syphilis, Syria, Tang Dynasty, technology, the Enlightenment, The Princeton Economic History of the Western World, Thirty Years' War, Thomas Robert Malthus, Thomas Sydenham, ticks, tobacco, trade, trade routes, transportation, tropical diseases, tsetse flies, tuberculosis, typhoid, typhus, United States, urbanization, vaccination, vaccines, variolation, viral vectors, virology, virulence, viruses, vivax malaria, warfare, water purification, water treatment, wealth, West Indies, whipworm, whooping cough, William McNeill, World Health Organization (WHO), yaws, yellow fever, Yersinia pestis, zoonosis on .
December 20, 2021 8 Comments
After three previous books in this format on
, fossils , and rocks , geologist and palaeontologist Donald R. Prothero here tackles the story of evolution in 25 notable discoveries. More so than the previous trio, this book tries to be a servant to two masters, resulting in a mixed bag. dinosaurs
evolution, history of science and tagged abiogenesis, Alfred Russell Wallace, amphibians, anatomy, apes, Archaeopteryx, Ardipithecus, Aristotle, astronomy, atavisms, Australia, Australopithecus, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Big Bang theory, biochemistry, biogeography, birds, Birute Galdikas, Biston betularia, bones, book review, brain regions, brains, Carolus Linnaeus, cell biology, Charles Darwin, chimpanzees, Columbia University Press, comparative anatomy, Comte de Buffon, convergent evolution, cosmic microwave background radiation, creationism, David Hume, deep time, Dian Fossey, dinosaurs, DNA, DNA structure, Doppler effect, Edwin Hubble, elephants, embryology, embryos, endosymbiosis, Ernst Haeckel, evolution, evolutionary developmental biology, expanding universe, eyes, fish, flight, fossil record, fossils, Galápagos finches, Galápagos Islands, Galápagos tortoises, genetic bottlenecks, genetics, genome, geology, Georges Cuvier, giraffes, gorillas, great apes, Harold Urey, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, history of science, HMS Beagle, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo floresiensis, Homo habilis, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo sapiens, homology, homunculus, horses, Hox genes, human evolution, hydrothermal vents, Intelligent Design, James Hutton, Jane Goodall, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, John Gould, junk DNA, Karl Ernst von Baer, lactose intolerance, left recurrent laryngeal nerve, Louis Leakey, lungfish, Lynn Margulis, macroevolution, mammoths, marsupials, mastodons, mid-ocean ridges, Miller-Urey experiment, missing links, mitochondria, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), molecular biology, molecular clock, molecular phylogenetics, morality, mutants, natural selection, Neanderthals, Neil Shubin, neoteny, non-coding DNA, octopus, On the Origin of Species, ontogeny, orchids, origin of life, Othniel Charles Marsh, palaeoanthropology, pandas, parasites, parasitism, peppered moths, Peter Grant, phylogenetics, phylogeny, physiology, polymers, preformationism, primatology, Proboscidae, proteins, pseudogenes, religion, Richard Dawkins, Richard Owen, Rosemary Grant, rudimentary organs, scala naturae, science fiction, Scottish Enlightenment, sinuses, skeletons, skin colour, skulls, snakes, species endemism, Stanley Miller, Stephen Jay Gould, stratigraphy, synapsids, teeth, tetrapods, theology, Thomas Henry Huxley, Tiktaalik, Toba eruption, transitional fossils, tree of life, trilobites, turtle shells, turtles, uniformitarianism, Universe, vertebrates, vestigial organs, volcanoes, Wallace Line, Washoe, wasps, whales, William Paley, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), wisdom teeth on .
August 11, 2021 1 Comment
When I recently reviewed
, I casually wrote how that book dealt with the evolution of Old Work monkeys and apes, ignoring New World monkeys which went off on their own evolutionary experiment in South America. But that did leave me wondering. Those New World monkeys, what did they get up to then? Here, primatologist Alfred L. Rosenberger provides a comprehensive and incredibly accessible book that showed these monkeys to be far more fascinating than I imagined. The Real Planet of the Apes
evolution and tagged adaptation, adaptive radiation, Alouatta, Alouattinae, Amazon forest, anatomy, animal behaviour, Aotus, apes, arboreality, Argentina, Ateles, Atelidae, atelids, Atelinae, atelines, Atlantic Forest, Bearded Sakis, biogeography, body postures, body proportions, body size, book review, Brachyteles, brain architecture, brain regions, brain sizes, brains, Brazil, Cacajao, Callicebus, Callimico, Callitrichidae, Callitrichinae, callitrichines, catarrhine primates, Cebidae, cebids, Cebinae, cebines, Cebuella, Cebus, Central America, Cercopithecinae, Charles Darwin, Cheek-pouched Monkeys, Chiropotes, cladistics, claws, Colobinae, Colombia, communication, comparative anatomy, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), convergent evolution, cooperative breeding, deforestation, dentition, diet, DNA, Dolichocebus, dwarfism, ecological niches, ecology, ecophylogenetics, encephalization quotient (EQ), Eocene, ethology, evolution, extinction, eyes, facial expressions, Fallback Food Hypothesis, faunivores, feet, field work, folivores, fossil record, fossils, fruit, genetics, Goeldi's Monkey, grooming, gumivores, habitat destruction, habitat loss, hands, herbivores, Homunculinae, homunculines, insectivores, intelligence, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Lagothrix, Leaf-eating Monkeys, Leontopithecus, lifestyle, Lion Marmosets, locomotion, manual dexterity, Marmosets, mating systems, Miocene, molecular clock, molecular phylogenetics, monkeys, morphology, Muriquis, natural selection, New World monkeys, nocturnality, Old World Monkeys, olfaction, Owl Monkeys, palaeobiogeography, palaeontology, parental care, Peru, phylogenetics, phylogenomics, phylogeny, Pithecia, Pitheciidae, pitheciids, Pitheciinae, pitheciines, plate tectonics, platyrrhine primates, Platyrrhini, Pleistocene, prehensile appendages, prehensile tails, primates, primatology, Princeton University Press, Pygmy Marmosets, quadrupedalism, rainforest, reproduction, Saguinus, Saimiri, Saki Monkeys, seeds, sexual dimorphism, sexual selection, skulls, social hierarchies, social organization, sound, sound production, South America, Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, strepsirhine primates, Strepsirhini, tactile communication, tail-twining behaviour, Tamarins, taxonomy, teeth, Titi Monkeys, trees, treetops, Uacaris, vegetation rafts, vision, visual signals, vocalisations, Woolly Monkeys on .
April 9, 2021 1 Comment
The history of human evolution has become firmly wedded to the Out of Africa hypothesis: the idea that we evolved in Africa and from there spread around the world. Back in 2015, palaeoanthropologist David R. Begun gave the proverbial tree of life a firm shake with
The Real Planet of the Apes, making the case that the picture is a bit more complicated than that. Providing an incredibly well-written overview of the deep evolutionary history of great apes and humans, an interesting picture emerges of species moving into and out of Africa over time. Some reviewers hailed it as provocative – but is it really?
anthropology, evolution and tagged adaptive radiation, Aegyptopithecus, Africa, Afropithecus, Anapithecus, anatomy, ancient DNA, Ankarapithecus, Anoiapithecus, anthropoids, anthropology, Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, biogeography, biostratigraphy, bipedalism, bones, bonobos, book review, brain sizes, brains, catarrhine primates, Charles Darwin, chimpanzees, Chororapithecus, cladistics, climate change, climate proxy, climate reconstructions, comparative anatomy, Dendropithecus, dentition, DNA, Dryopithecus, Ekembo, encephalization quotient (EQ), Epipliopithecus, Equatorius, Eurasia, Europe, evolution, excavations, extinct mammals, extinction, fossil record, fossils, genetics, geomagnetic reversal, geomagnetism, Georges Cuvier, gibbons, Gigantopithecus, gorillas, Graecopithecus, great apes, Griphopithecus, Heliopithecus, Hispanopithecus, hominids, hominins, hominoids, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens, human evolution, hylobatids, Indopithecus, jaws, Kalepithecus, Kamoyapithecus, Kenyapithecus, Khoratpithecus, knuckle-walking, Kogolepithecus, Limnopithecus, locomotion, Lomorupithecus, Lufengpithecus, Mabokopithecus, mammals, Mediterranean, Micropithecus, migration, Miocene, modern humans, molecular phylogenetics, monkeys, Morotopithecus, morphology, Nacholapithecus, Neanderthals, Neopithecus, New World monkeys, Nyanzapithecus, Old World Monkeys, Oligocene, orangutans, Oreopithecus, Orrorin, Otavipithecus, Ouranopithecus, Out of Africa theory, Paidopithex, palaeoanthropology, palaeobiology, palaeoclimatology, palaeogeography, palaeontology, Pierolapithecus, Pliopithecus, pongines, Princeton University Press, Proconsul, prosimians, Ramapithecus, Rangwapithecus, Rukwapithecus, Saadanius, Sahelanthropus, Samburupithecus, Sivapithecus, skulls, taxonomy, teeth, Tethys Ocean, Turkanapithecus, Ugandapithecus, Victoriapithecus, Xenopithecus on .
December 23, 2020 6 Comments
The problem with many history books is that they are written long after the facts, sometimes when the original protagonists are no longer alive. Historians or journalists often have no choice but to puzzle together the pieces of their story from eyewitness testimony or archival sources.
Kin: How We Came to Know Our Microbe Relatives is a welcome exception to this rule. Written by emeritus microbiology professor John L. Ingraham, currently 94 years young, this book gives an intellectual history of the discipline of microbiology based on over seven decades of first-hand involvement and observation.
microbiology and tagged algae, amino acids, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Archaea, bacteria, bacteriophages, book review, Carl Woese, cell biology, Charles Darwin, chloroplasts, CRISPR-Cas9, cyanobacteria, DNA, endosymbiosis, Ernst Haeckel, eukaryotes, evolution, fungi, gene editing, genes, genetics, germ theory, Harvard University Press, history of science, horizontal gene transfer, hydrothermal vents, isotopes, Louis Pasteur, metabolism, microbes, microbiology, microbiome, microscopy, mitochondria, molecular biology, molecular phylogenetics, origin of life, oxygen, panspermia, photosynthesis, prokaryotes, proteins, ribosomal RNA, ribosomes, RNA, sex, species, spontaneous generation, taxonomy, tree of life, viruses on .
January 30, 2019
Leave a comment
I recently read about the American microbiologist Carl Woese (1928-2012) and his discovery of a completely new group of single-celled organisms, the Archaea, in Quammen’s book
. These mysterious microbes thrive under extreme environmental conditions, so I was intrigued and keen to find out more. The French microbiologist Patrick Forterre here describes these microbes, the research that led to their discovery, and the questions and answers this has thrown up. Originally published in French in 2008 as The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life , The University of Chicago Press has now made this book available in English to a wider audience. Microbes de l’Enfer
microbiology and tagged Archaea, bacteria, book review, DNA, eurkaryotes, evolution, extremophiles, genomics, hydrothermal vents, hyperthermophiles, microbes, microbiology, molecular phylogenetics, prokaryotes, proteins, retroviruses, ribosomal RNA, ribosomes, RNA, temperature, thermophiles, tree of life, University of Chicago Press, viruses on .
October 10, 2018 2 Comments
After I recently finished Carl Zimmer’s new book
, I noticed there was one mechanism of heredity he mentioned only ever so briefly: horizontal gene transfer. Since it does not play a large role in humans, it is understandable he left it aside. And doing it justice would have required almost another book. Luckily, science writer David Quammen is here to give us that book. She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
evolution and tagged antibiotic resistance, antibiotics, Archaea, bacteria, bacteriophages, biography, book review, Carl Woese, chloroplasts, CRISPR-Cas9, DNA, endosymbiosis, eukaryotes, evolution, extremophiles, gene editing, genes, genetics, genome, HarperCollins, health, heredity, horizontal gene transfer, human evolution, junk DNA, Lynn Margulis, microbes, microbiology, microbiome, mitochondria, molecular biology, molecular phylogenetics, origin of life, plasmids, popular science, prokaryotes, proteins, retroviruses, ribosomal RNA, ribosomes, RNA, tree of life, viruses, William Collins on .
September 12, 2018 10 Comments