A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters
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Dr Henry Gee presents creatures from ‘gregarious’ bacteria populating the seas to duelling dinosaurs in the Triassic period, to magnificent mammals with the future in their grasp. Life’s evolutionary steps – from the development of a digestive system to the awe of creatures taking to the skies in flight – are conveyed with an up-close intimacy. Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Life teems through Henry Gee’s lyrical prose – colossal supercontinents drift, collide, and coalesce, fashioning the face of the planet as we know it today. Creatures are engagingly personified, from ‘gregarious’ bacteria populating the seas to duelling dinosaurs in the Triassic period to magnificent mammals with the future in their (newly evolved) grasp. Those long extinct, almost alien early life forms are resurrected in evocative detail. Life’s evolutionary steps – from the development of a digestive system to the awe of creatures taking to the skies in flight – are conveyed with an alluring, up-close intimacy. About the authorLife emerged on Earth not long after the planet’s aggregation, writes Gee, and faced its first major challenge about 2.4 billion years ago. Until this point, bacteria and archaea had been confined to the oceans, where they evaded the Sun’s deadly rays, which were not yet tempered by a protective atmosphere. Bacteria eventually learned to harness sunlight to produce energy, with oxygen as a by-product; but as oxygen levels rose, generations of bacteria and archaea that had evolved in its absence were burned alive.
With dramatic flair, Henry Gee’s sweeping new book, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, tells the 4-billion-year story of life on this planet and how it has been repeatedly shaped by geological, climatic, and atmospheric forces. Trained as a paleontologist, Gee tells life’s history using the framework of the fossil record, offering insights from the related fields of ecology and physiology. Interwoven as it is with geology and climate, life evolves the way Ernest Hemingway said we go broke: “gradually and then suddenly” (1). Exhilaratingly whizzes through billions of years . . . Gee is a marvellously engaging writer, juggling humour, precision, polemic and poetry to enrich his impossibly telescoped account . . . [making] clear sense out of very complex narratives' - The TimesHenry Gee’s whistle-stop account of the story of life (and death — lots of death) on Earth is both fun and informative. Even better, it goes beyond the natural human inclination to see ourselves as special and puts us in our proper place in the cosmic scheme of things." this book is like a tldr of earths history - geological history, evolutionary history. the concepts can be so difficult to grasp at times, I felt like wanting to know why a certain thing happened a little bit more, not just read in a sentence.