Every living thing: man's obsessive quest to catalog life, from nanobacteria to new monkeys.

Every living thing: man's obsessive quest to catalog life, from nanobacteria to new monkeys. Rob R. Dunn.

New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2009. Octavo, dustwrapper.

In a series of vivid portraits of determined - even obsessed - scientists, Rob Dunn shows that we are not even close to knowing all life on earth. We are not close to naming it, studying it, not even close to knowing the basic kinds of organisms. How much is left to know? If history is a lesson, there is more left to know than we have yet discovered. And yet, biologists and lay people alike have repeatedly through history claimed victory over life. A thousand years ago we thought we knew almost everything; a hundred years ago too. But, even today we are unable to see what is beyond our immediate radar. Discoveries we can't yet imagine still await. The narrative telescopes from a scientist's attempt to find one single thing (a rare ant-emulating beetle species) to a scientist's attempt to find everything (all the insects living in a section of the Smoky Mountains). His scientific heroes include: Lynn Margulis, who explained how our cells gained the ability to make energy; Carl Woese, who defined a new kingdom of life in 1977; and, Carl Sagan, who pioneered the search for life in space.

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