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This Is Biology:
The Science of the Living World

by Ernst Mayr

ISBN 0674884698 / 9780674884694 / 0-674-88469-8
Publisher Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

At the age of 93, Ernst Mayr has forgotten more about biology than most people ever learn. Mayr has been more than just an eyewitness to the amazing advances in biological theory and understanding over the century; he was an active participant as well, helping to formulate the combination of Darwinian thought and modern genetics that is the bedrock of today's standard theory of evolution. But biology has always been something of a poor relation to the other physical sciences--subjects such as physics or chemistry that have strict rules of cause and effect and a certain predictability. Biology, on the other hand, is based on a muddle of combined causes, pure chance, and evidence drawn from unrelated areas, yet it is the one science that addresses those aspects of nature that can't be reduced to mere laws of chemistry or physics. In his book This Is Biology, Ernst Mayr sets out to show us how and why.

Though biology is a relatively young science, born in the 19th century, its roots go back to the days of Aristotle; Mayr traces its development from the ancient Greeks to the advent of modern molecular techniques. Woven throughout this history of the science is an explanation of its relation to other sciences and to the humanities, particularly history and ethics. This Is Biology was written with great thought and care and requires the same from its readers; for those interested in the science of life as well as one great man's life in science, this book is the natural selection. [via]