The Biologist (2002) 49, no 5.

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The typography used for the title makes it deliberately ambiguous – and enticing. This is not a book that revisits Darwin’s Origin of species, per se, but rather its core problem: how species originated. This is done via use of current scientific knowledge intended to help solve that problem and via an historical insight into undeservedly ignored work that anticipated some of these later developments. Thus, this book seeks to bring to wider attention the work of George Romanes (1848–94) and William Bateson (1861–1926).

    Although the dust jacket locates this book in ‘History of science’, the author states that it is written for ‘no one in particular’. This is true, for while there is much well written material of interest to the historian and the biologist, the book sits in no single camp. To accommodate this, we are told that certain parts may be read or skipped, depending upon the reader’s requirements. More informative chapter summaries would have helped the reader know what they had missed by following this advice. The mix of history and science, although common in popular science writing, is attempted here for a more serious readership – and at a price to match. Some will congratulate the author for attempting such a feat; others will not. This leaves one a little unsure of the book’s potential reception. This is a pity as there is much to commend such an approach, and this book in particular.

Stephen Lewis

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Last edited 14 Jan 2004 by Donald Forsdyke