Sign up for text message event notifications by texting BASEVENTS to 970-620-9150

Reef madness: Alexander Agassiz, Charles Darwin, and the meaning of coral

Book Cover
Average Rating
Publisher:
Pantheon,
Pub. Date:
2005.
Edition:
1st ed.
Language:
English
Description
Reef Madness opens up the world of nineteenth-century science and philosophy at a moment when the nature of scientific thought was changing, when what we call "science" (the word did not even exist) was spoken of as "natural philosophy" and was a part of theology, the study of "God's natural works." nbsp; This is how what is now called science, until then based on the presence and hence the authority of God, moved toward reliance on observable phenomena as evidence of truth. At the book's center, two of that century's most bitter debates: one about the theory of natural selection, the other about the origin of coral. nbsp; Caught in the grip of these controversies were two men considered to be the gods of the nineteenth-century scientific world: Charles Darwin, the most controversial and ultimately the most influential; and the Swiss-born zoologist Louis Agassiz, almost forgotten today but at the time even more lionized than Darwin. nbsp; Agassiz was a paleontologist, the first to classify the fossil fish of the planet, and the first to conceive the idea of the ice age that altered our view of the Earth. He taught at Harvard, founded the Museum of Comparative Zoology, was one of the founders of the Smithsonian and of the National Academy of Sciences, and was considered the greatest lecturer of his time--eloquent, charming, spellbinding. Among his admirers: Emerson, Theodore Roosevelt, William James, and Thoreau. Agassiz believed that nature was so vast, complicated, and elegantly ordered that it could only be the work of God. nbsp; We see how this central principle of Agassiz's was threatened by Darwin's most central theory--that species change through natural causes, that we exist not because we're meant to but because we happen to. Agassiz, forced either to disprove Darwin's principle or give up his own, went to war full tilt against the theory of natural selection. It was a war that, beyond its own drama, had a second important effect on the new world of science. nbsp; David Dobbs tells how Agassiz's son, Alexander, one of the most respected naturalists of his time, who witnessed his father's rise and tragic defeat yet supported the theory of natural selection over his father's objections, himself became locked in combat with Darwin. nbsp; The subject of contention was the "coral reef problem." As a young man of twenty-six, Darwin, with only a small amount of data, put forth a theory about the formation of these huge beautiful forms composed of the skeletons of tiny animals that survive in shallow water. It explained how the reefs could rise on foundations that emerged from the Pacific's greatest depths. This became the subject of Darwin's first long paper, and it propelled him to the highest circles of British science. nbsp; The obsessed younger Agassiz spent the next thirty years in a vain effort to disprove Darwin's coral theory, traveling 300,000 miles of ocean and looking at every coral mass. In so doing, he laid the groundwork for oceanography, through which, in 1950, the question of the origin of coral was finally resolved. nbsp; In Reef Madness , Dobbs looks at the nature of scientific theory. He shows how Darwin was crucially influenced by his encounters with the Agassiz father and son, and how the coral problem prefigured the fierce battle about evolution. nbsp; Original, illuminating, and fascinating, Reef Madness uses these large human struggles, which devastated two lives and shaped the thinking of another, to make real the Victorian world of science and to show how it affected the century that followed and continues to this day to affect our own.
Also in This Series
More Like This
More Copies In Prospector
Loading Prospector Copies...
More Details
ISBN:
9780375421617
Reviews from GoodReads
Loading GoodReads Reviews.
Staff View

Grouping Information

Grouped Work IDd8da06c7-98ca-aa3e-04d8-ad9877456ad5
Grouping Titlereef madness alexander agassiz charles darwin and the meaning of coral
Grouping Authordobbs david
Grouping Categorybook
Last Grouping Update2019-07-24 17:26:10PM
Last Indexed2019-11-19 04:14:32AM

Solr Details

accelerated_reader_point_value0
accelerated_reader_reading_level0
authorDobbs, David, 1958-
author_displayDobbs, David
available_at_basaltBasalt
detailed_location_basaltBasalt Non Fiction
display_description
format_basaltBook
format_category_basaltBooks
idd8da06c7-98ca-aa3e-04d8-ad9877456ad5
isbn9780375421617
item_details
Bib IdItem IdShelf LocCall NumFormatFormat CategoryNum CopiesIs Order ItemIs eContenteContent SourceeContent FileeContent URLsubformatDetailed StatusLast CheckinLocationSub-location
ils:.b25419250.i44012342Basalt Non Fiction551.42 DOB1falsefalseOn Shelfbanf
itype_basaltNon-fiction
last_indexed2019-11-19T11:14:32.655Z
lexile_score-1
literary_formNon Fiction
literary_form_fullNon Fiction
local_callnumber_basalt551.42 DOB
owning_library_basaltBasalt Regional Library
owning_location_basaltBasalt
primary_isbn9780375421617
publishDate2005
record_details
Bib IdFormatFormat CategoryEditionLanguagePublisherPublication DatePhysical Description
ils:.b25419250BookBooks1st ed.EnglishPantheon, 2005.pages cm.
recordtypegrouped_work
scoping_details_basalt
Bib IdItem IdGrouped StatusStatusLocally OwnedAvailableHoldableBookableIn Library Use OnlyLibrary OwnedHoldable PTypesBookable PTypesLocal Url
ils:.b25419250.i44012342On ShelfOn Shelffalsetruetruefalsefalsetrue116, 117, 118, 119, 120
subject_facetAgassiz, Alexander, -- 1835-1910
Coral reefs and islands
Natural history -- Philosophy
Science -- History -- 19th century
title_displayReef madness : Alexander Agassiz, Charles Darwin, and the meaning of coral
title_fullReef madness : Alexander Agassiz, Charles Darwin, and the meaning of coral / David Dobbs
title_shortReef madness
title_subAlexander Agassiz, Charles Darwin, and the meaning of coral
topic_facetAgassiz, Alexander
Coral reefs and islands
History
Natural history
Philosophy
Science