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Do Lemmings Commit Suicide?: Beautiful Hypotheses and Ugly Facts

Biography / Memoir

By: Dennis Chitty(Author)

288 pages, 19 b/w photos, 60 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press USA

Paperback | Jul 1996 | #49969 | ISBN: 0195097866
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £63.99 $84/€73 approx
Hardback | Jul 1996 | #49968 | ISBN: 0195097858
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £71.99 $94/€82 approx

About this book

Do Lemmings Commit Suicide? is a personal history and apology, written by one of this century's most distinguished small mammal ecologists, for a life in science spent working on problems for which no final dramatic conclusion was reached. Included along the way are some important anedcotes and history about Charles Elton and the pioneering work at the Bureau of Animal Population at Oxford University, from which much of modern population ecology has grown, and insights on the philosophy and practice of science.

"This is a beautiful hypothesis based on fairly clear assumptions that can be tested experimentally [...] well written and full of interesting historical information."
Nature, Vol. 382, July 1996

"Since this is the story of the career of most scientists, it needs to be told. I am sure that [Chitty] can speak for the majority that a life in science without a Nobel Prize is still worth living."
– David Hull, Dept. of Philosophy, Northwestern University

"Chitty's saga will be of value to historians and philosophers of science as well as to ecologists generally."

"Chitty, who is 84, has written a scientific autobiography, and combined it with a treatise on how science is really done. He has interwoven his summary of a career-long pursuit of learning how small mammal populations are regulated in nature (we still do not know how) with a case history of how to work with colleagues, how to design experiments, what observations to gather, and some of the things that can go wrong [...] Required reading for field zoologists."


1. Introduction
2. Pioneering Observations, 1929-1939
3. Qualitative Changes, 1937-1939
4. Wartime Rat and Mouse Control, 1939-1946
5. Replication, 1946-1951
6. Behavior, Physiology, and Natural Selection, 1949-1961
7. Controversies, 1952-1956
8. Varying the Circumstances, 1952-1959
9. From Wytham Woods to Baker Lane, 1959-1962
10. Synchrony, 1924-1959
11. Review, 1923-1961
12. Epilogue, 1961-1995

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