HUMAN BONES: A SCIENTIFIC AND PICTORIAL INVESTIGATION
by R. McNeill Alexander. Photography by Aaron Diskin. Pi Press, 2005 ($37.50)
If you are not up for something as weighty as Gray's Anatomy, this might well be the book for you. True, it covers only bones, not all the other essential tissues and organs. But its coverage of bones is exquisite—thanks in equal part to the gorgeous photographs and the erudition and charm of the author. Alexander, emeritus professor of zoology at the University of Leeds in England and author of many books and articles on locomotion (including Dynamics of Dinosaurs), takes us from the living cells scattered throughout bone to the linked assemblages that form a human skeleton. Stops along the way examine specimens of the human skull (an astonishing number damaged by ax blows and other trauma) and offer enlightening comparisons—child
to adult, abnormal to normal, diseased to healthy.
EARTH: AN INTIMATE HISTORY
by Richard Fortey. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004 ($30)
"Geology underlies everything: it founds the landscape, dictates the agriculture, determines the character of villages." Fortey, senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, set out to explore those connections. "My solution has been to visit particular places, to explore their natural and human history in an intimate way, thence to move to the deeper motor of the earth—to show how the lie of the land responds to a deeper beat, a slow and fundamental pulse." His stops as he takes the reader on a journey around the world include Mount Vesuvius, the Alps, Newfoundland, Los Angeles and the Deccan Traps in India. He is an eloquent guide.
ARCHIVES OF THE UNIVERSE: A TREASURY OF ASTRONOMY'S HISTORIC WORKS OF DISCOVERY
Edited and with introductions by Marcia Bartusiak. Pantheon Books, 2004 ($35)
Here the reader gets not only a clear and concise history of astronomy but also excerpts from many of the memorable papers written by the scientists who made the pivotal astronomical discoveries. The history comes in Bartu-siak's fine introductions to the eight periods she describes and to the individual papers. The authors include such eminent figures as Ptolemy, Copernicus, Albert Einstein and Alan H. Guth. Bartusiak, a science writer who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, set as her focus "the discoveries that came to define the universe as we now know it: its composition, its various members, its structure, its evolution."
The books reviewed are available for purchase through www.sciam.com
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