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216 × 138 × 26 mm
240 pages
46 illustrations
01 Aug 2015
  • £20.00

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A Remarkable Journey The Story of Evolution R. Paul Thompson

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species appeared a little more than 150 years ago. Although Darwin had already been developing his theory for more than twenty years and others before him had advocated evolutionary views, the book was transformative and marked the beginning of the development of evolutionary biology. The story of the development of evolutionary theory over the last century and a half is fascinating and conceptually rich; it has involved repeated modification, clarification, experimentation and frustration. A Remarkable Journey: The Story of Evolution follows the theory of evolution along its captivating, often tortuous path – filled with intrigue and philosophical richness – from Darwin’s original brilliant formulation to today’s robust, vibrant and deeply explanatory principle.

In many respects, the story of evolution documents the maturing of biological science; as the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky asserted in 1973, ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.’ A Remarkable Journey is a historical narrative of the discoveries, debates, experimentation and field work that became the evidential base on which the theory of evolution rests, of the systematic assembling of these into an elegant and powerful science, and of how it increasingly won over the biological and scientific communities. This considered and absorbing overview will provide all readers with an insight into the development of what most of us now take for granted as a basic – and beautiful – principle of life.

‘an engaging account of the diverse people, observations, experiments, analyses, and controversies that led to an increasingly cohesive theory. This is all accomplished in a more lucid and readable manner than has been done in previous publications, resulting in a comprehensive overview of peoples understanding of evolution. Thompson covers Darwins precursors, Darwin himself, the contributions from biometrics, Mendel, the modern synthesis, the discovery and role of DNA, sociobiology, and evo-devo. The latter two are arguably covered too briefly, but that is a minor complaint for a major accomplishment . . . Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘Evolutionary science is over 150 years old now. Thompsons book gives a delightful overview of how it was born, how it struggled through adolescence, and how it reached the mature state one can witness today. The book explains the main ideas and introduces the key scientists in a way that makes it an interesting read, both for non-scientists and for scholars from outside biology . . . I much enjoyed reading Thompsons book, which gave me quite a bit of insight into the history of the field of evolutionary science. It is an excellent choice for anyone who is interested in learning more about Darwins fascinating creation.’ — Metascience

‘This is a lucid, compelling, and very instructive exposition of evolutionary theory. Thompson explains the crucial concepts of evolutionary theory in accessible terms, introduces its key proponents, and recounts its many fierce debates and controversies from the time of Darwins groundbreaking publication up to the encompassing and robust theory that it is today . . . Readers interested in an accessible and comprehensive overview of evolutionary theory, its history, and key players will be delighted by this thorough exposition.’ — The Quarterly Review of Biology

‘Recommending a readable book on evolutionary biology for non-scientists has been a challenge A Remarkable Journey solves this problem. R. Paul Thompson traces the history of ideas, the key players and the controversies in a wonderfully engaging style. This book will appeal to all with a thirst for knowledge about one of the greatest achievements of science.’ — Professor Spencer C. H. Barrett, University of Toronto

‘This is a remarkable book about a remarkable journey. Evolution is one of the most exciting discoveries ever made organisms, including humans, are the end result of a long, slow process of development. Yet, the very idea is deeply threatening to many who fear it destroys the tight little world in which they live. Paul Thompson gives us an energetic and engaged history of the science, including an introduction to the all-important English naturalist Charles Darwin, leading to a full discussion of what we know about evolution today, ending with a brief but incisive and sympathetic discussion of the relevance of the idea of evolution to religious thought. This book is highly recommended, not just for the general reader but also for the expert who wants a fresh look at the topic.’ — Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Program at Florida State University

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R. Paul Thompson is Professor at the Institute of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. His books include The Moral Question and Agro-Technology: A Philosophical Introduction and he is the editor of Issues in Evolutionary Ethics and Evolutionary Biology: Conceptual, Ethical and Religious Issues (with Denis Walsh).


1. Prologue

2. A New Dawn: Darwin Transforms Biology

3. Missing Pieces: Heredity and Variation

4. Mendel Unlocks one of Nature’s Secrets

5. Troubled Waters

6. A Bridge over Troubled Water

7. Evolutionary Biology Comes of Age

8. Extending Genetics: The Molecular and Chemical Basis of Heredity and Life

9. The Evaluation of Behaviour: Sociobiology

10. Development: From Genes to Organisms

11. Science and the Death Throes of Biblical Literalism






Photo Acknowledgements