Ants have long fascinated linguists, human sociologists, and even cyberneticians. At the end of the nineteenth century, ants seemed to be admirable models for human life and were praised for their work ethic, communitarianism, and apparent empathy. They provided a natural-theological lesson on the relative importance of humans within creation and inspired psychologists to investigate the question of instinct and its place in the life of higher animals and humans. By the 1930s, however, ants came to symbolize one of modernity's deepest fears: the loss of selfhood. Researchers then viewed the ant colony as an unthinking mass, easily ruled and slavishly organized.
In this volume, Charlotte Sleigh uses specific representations of ants within the field of entomology from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries to explore the broader role of metaphors in science and their often unpredictable translations. Marking the centenary of the coining of "myrmecology"-the study of ants-as a science, Six Legs Better demonstrates the remarkable historical role played by ants as a node where notions of animal, human, and automaton intersect.
"A provocative, complex account of a multifaceted period of cultural history. There is material here that will lead to a great deal of reflection by historians and scientists alike." - Matthew Cobb, TLS 15 June 2007.
Charlotte Sleigh is a senior lecturer at the Centre for History and Cultural Studies of Science, University of Kent.
A lively and erudite storyteller, Sleigh vividly portrays the fluidity between scientific genres and between the sciences and the humanities... reading the book is like peering into an ant farm to watch the construction of an intricate and complex nest. -- Anna Lena Phillips American Scientist 2007 A provocative, complex account of a multifaceted period of cultural history. There is material here that will lead to a great deal of reflection by historians and scientists alike. -- Matthew Cobb Times Literary Supplement 2007 Impressive for its depth and detail. -- Bernd Heinrich Quarterly Review of Biology 2007 interesting and readable. -- Graham W. Elmes British Journal of Entomology and Natural History 2007 The scholarship will form an excellent starting point for all future studies in this area. -- Eric C. Brown Anthrozoos 2007 Rich with information... I recommend this book. -- Andrew Suarez RedOrbit News 2008 Sleigh provides great insight... I recommend this book. -- Andrew V. Suarez Bioscience 2008 Her book as a whole is a treasure of insights about science and metaphor. -- Richard W. Burkhardt British Journal for the History of Science 2008 Certainly, Sleigh's book provides an excellent resource for understanding the background of the historical connections between the study of ants and the study of humanity. -- Janine Rogers The British Society for Literature and Science 2008 In an elegant writing style... she draws upon an impressive body of material. -- Assoc. Prof. Jes S. Pedersen Myrmecological News 2009