358 pages, 5 b/w photos, 226 b/w illustrations
For the past 450 years, tree-like branching diagrams have attempted to show the complex and surprising interrelationships of organisms, both living and fossil, from viruses and bacteria to birds and mammals. This stunning book celebrates the manifest beauty, intrinsic interest, and human ingenuity revealed in these exquisite trees of life.
Theodore W. Pietsch has chosen 230 trees of life – from among thousands of possible contenders – dating from the sixteenth century to the present day. His arrangement gives readers a visual sense of the historical development of these diagrams and shows how, in Darwin's words, "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."
Pietsch's brief, accessible prose accompanies the diverse trees to display the engrossing history of evolution. Over the centuries, trees of life appeared in a wide variety of forms;, some were revered as iconic while others incited intense controversy. The earliest examples were meant to reveal the imagined temporal order in which God created life on Earth. More recent scientific trees represent hypothetical histories of life.
Never before has the full spectrum of trees of life been brought together in a single volume. Pietsch has spent decades collecting and researching the origin and meaning of these evolutionary trees and presents a visually breathtaking and intellectually brilliant history of the form.
"Systematics and the exact tracing of evolutionary pathways increasingly continue their renaissance as a major enterprise of biology. Theodore W. Pietsch's Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution is an excellent way to study and think about the historical process that is underway."
- E.O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
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Theodore W. Pietsch is Dorothy T. Gilbert Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Curator of Fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is author of more than a dozen books, including The Curious Death of Peter Artedi: A Mystery in the History of Science and Oceanic Anglerfishes: Extraordinary Diversity in the Deep Sea.