Review of Every Living Thing

Friend of Elsewhat Jason Roberts has a new book, out yesterday, called Every Living Thing. His last book, A Sense of the World was beautiful and amazingly well researched, making this an instant buy (from your local independent book store, not Amazon).

The book follows the paths of two scientists endeavouring to come up with a taxonomy system to classify, well, every living thing. From the New York Time’s review:

Roberts’s exploration centers on the competing work of Linnaeus and another scientific pioneer, the French mathematician and naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Of the two, Linnaeus is far better known today. Of course, Roberts notes, the Frenchman did not pursue fame as ardently as did his Swedish rival. Linnaeus cultivated admiration to a near-religious degree; he liked to describe even obscure students like Rolander as “apostles.” Buffon, in his time even more famous as a brilliant mathematician, scholar and theorist, preferred debate over adulation, dismissing public praise as “a vain and deceitful phantom.”

Their different approaches to stardom may partly explain why we remember one better than we do the other. But perhaps their most important difference — one that forms the central question of Roberts’s book — can be found in their sharply opposing ideas on how to best impose order on the planet’s tangle of species.

Read the New York Times’ Review →

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