On Discover Magazine’s 25 Greatest Science Books Of All Time
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 1/7/07
In the December, 2006 edition of Discover magazine, there was a listing of the 25 Greatest Science Books Of All Time. I responded with an email to the magazine. In the February, 2007 edition the magazine ran this portion of my email:
…Loren Eiseley’s three books of essays: The Immense Journey, The Night Country, and The Unexpected Universe. Eiseley is the best scientific prose stylist ever.
This bowdlerized version does not do justice to my original email. Here is its full text:
Fri, Nov 17, 2006 at 2:58 PM
One wonders if your list
should have been called 'the most important science books ever written', not the
'greatest'. While there are books that scientifically are untouchable, such as The
Origin Of Species, Principia, Einstein's Relativity, etc.,
there are a number of books of questionable scientific merit- The First Three
Minutes, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Gaia. Worse, there
are a number of books listed that are simply poorly written- a sorely overlooked
factor in lists such as this, and cannot even be considered good reads, even if
they had greater import scientifically. The Double Helix, The Journals
Of Lewis & Clark, Silent Spring, and several of the Honorable
Mentions are among them.
Let me nominate four works by the best scientific prose stylist ever: Loren Eiseley. Like many of the classics mentioned, the science is often outdated, but in his books of essays Eiseley not only was a precursor to Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, as an essayist and public educator, but pioneered the 'hidden essay' that prose writers outside of science have adapted not only in essays but memoirs. Those three books of essays are The Immense Journey, The Night Country, and The Unexpected Universe. The fourth is his nonpareil memoir about the life of a scientist and wanderer, All The Strange Hours.
Eiseley, in these and other science books, humanized the reading public's very concept of a scientist as something near-deific or out of a B film to that of a real human being with emotions and insights. No one- not Darwin nor Sagan nor Gould- was more vital and influential in that regard. His omission for, at least, one of these works, is a grave display of myopia. DAN
Read the works of Eiseley, and see how correct I am.
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