What Makes Biology Unique?

Considerations on the Autonomy of a Scientific Discipline

What Makes Biology Unique?

This collection of revised and new essays argues that biology is an autonomous science rather than a branch of the physical sciences. Ernst Mayr, widely considered the most eminent evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, offers insights on the history of evolutionary thought, critiques the conditions of philosophy to the science of biology, and comments on several of the major developments in evolutionary theory. Notably, Mayr explains that Darwin's theory of evolution is actually five separate theories, each with its own history, trajectory and impact. Ernst Mayr, commonly referred to as the "Darwin of the 20th century" and listed as one of the top 100 scientists of all-time, is Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. What Makes Biology Unique is the 25th book he has written during his long and prolific career. His recent books include This is Biology: The Science of the Living World (Belknap Press, 1997) and What Evolution Is (Basic Books, 2002).


 Reviews:

"His mind is still remarkably sharp." Science

"In this first book of the second century of his long career, the biologist Ernst Mayr at age 100 has given us his reflections on the most interesting and important questions about life: why living things can't be understood just as very complex machines, how humans evolved, why we haven't yet communicated with any extraterrestrials, and others. Written with a clarity and vigor that shine from every page, this book is best summarized in one word: exciting!" Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, UCLA, author of Guns, Germs and Steel (Pultizer Prize, 1998).

"Ernst Mayr has long had a deep and well-informed interest in the philosophy of biology in relation to broad questions in the philosophy of science. This is an invaluable, thought-provoking, and engaging summary of his ideas, a crowning achievement!" Mary Jane West-Eberhard, Senior Scientist, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, author of Developmental Plasticity and Evolution (Hawkins Award, 2003).

" What Makes Biology Unique? offers newcomers an entertaining way to expand their horizons. We are lucky that someone who has experienced so much remains forever young in his thinking." American Scientist, Volume 93, David Sloan Wilson, Biology and Anthropology, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York

'As with all of Ernst Mayr's writings, the prose is crisp, clear and interesting … it is a good place to start - both for thinking about biology as a science and as an introduction to the ideas and perceptions of one of the great scientists of the 20th century.' BioEssays

'… this excellent book will help many molecular biologists understand the underlying structure of mainstream evolution much better.' European Molecular Biology Organization

'As with all of Ernst Mayr's writings, the prose is crisp, clear and interesting … it is a good place to start - both for thinking about biology as a science and as an introduction to the ideas and perceptions of one of the great scientists of the 20th century.' BioEssays

'… a valuable summary of the thoughts of one of the best known evolutionary biologists.' Ibis

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