Species: A History of the Idea
The complex idea of 'species' has evolved over time, yet its meaning is far from resolved. This comprehensive work takes a fresh look at an idea central to the field of biology by tracing its history from antiquity to today. John S. Wilkins explores the essentialist view, a staple of logic from Plato and Aristotle through the Middle Ages to fairly recent times, and considers the idea of species in natural history - a concept often connected to reproduction.
Tracing 'generative conceptions' of species back through Darwin to Epicurus, Wilkins provides a new perspective on the relationship between philosophical and biological approaches to this concept. He also reviews the array of current definitions. "Species" is a benchmark exploration and clarification of a concept fundamental to the past, present, and future of the natural sciences.
- Joel Cracraft, American Museum of Natural History
"This is not the potted history that one usually finds in texts and review articles. It is a fresh look at the history of a field central to biology, but one whose centrality has changed in scope over the centuries. Wilkins' book will be a standard source for all kinds of people working in systematics. There is not another book on the subject, amazingly enough, and his perspective is so comprehensive and well-taught that it will replace any standard review articles and older histories."
- Kevin Padian, University of California, Berkeley
"An essential sourcebook for anyone interested in the species problem and the history of 'species.' Wilkins does a wonderful job detangling the various uses of 'species.' His book brings clarity to a topic marked by confusion and ambiguity."
- Marc Ereshefsky, author of "The Poverty of Linnaean Hierarchy: A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy"
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