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The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal (Life of the Past) (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 6. November 2012

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"Simon J. Knell takes the reader on a journey through 150 years of scientific thinking, imagining, and arguing. Slowly the animal begins to reveal traces of itself: its lifestyle, its remarkable evolution, its witnessing of great catastrophes, its movements over the surface of the planet, and finally its anatomy. Today the conodont animal remains perhaps the most disputed creature in the zoological world." Ian Paulsen, Grrlscientist hosted by the Guardian, November 4th 2012 "Excellent and refreshing... Will be the seminal source [on] the interpretation of conodonts and the origin of vertebrates... Among the plethora of history of science books, and especially histories of... palaeontology and the earth sciences, nothing comes close." Michael J. Benton, University of Bristol "Quite a remarkable and well-executed story... It should be of great interest not only to conodontologists but to palaeontologists in general as well as to everyone interested in the history of science. I cannot think of any other comparable work dealing so thoroughly with the exploration history of a widespread and important fossil group." Stig M. Bergstrom, Ohio State University "[A]n in-depth analysis of the complex culture of the scientists who drew different conclusions regarding the likely type of animals that produced these teeth. ... Readers will learn how scientists develop ideas and interact with colleagues, and how animosities and cooperative relationships develop and change. ... Recommended."--Choice

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Simon J. Knell, Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, is renowned for his innovative studies of fossils as scientific and cultural objects. Previously a popular geology columnist for Geology Today, Knell has published The Making of the Geological Society of London; The Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851; and The Age of the Earth: From 4004 BC to 2002 AD.


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7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Interesting story, but woefully few illustrations 24. November 2012
Von John Hedley - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Interesting story, but woefully few illustrations. To a specialist who is already familiar with conodonts the story is engaging, but to the general public (and probably even paleo professionals who know more about dinosaurs than microfossils) the minimal number of illustrations is a serious drawback. It's a shame since the nature of the conodont animal has been a tougher mystery to solve than most of the more familiar paleontological challenges like the dinosaurs-are-birds issue and would have greatly benefited from rich illustrations of the key finds rather than just reprinting the dry and somewhat uninformative illustrations from journals. Overall the illustrations are rarely original and aren't even very good copies. Most of the unique photographs are of the various scientists involved in the study of conodonts rather than the specimens they study! At very least one would think the author would have tried to get new photographs of the most important specimens. The book seems to be trying to be the conodont version of Gould's "Wonderful Life", but Gould wisely chose to illustrate his major topics of discussion while Knell does not. Sadly, the book is something of a missed opportunity that will likely end up remaindered fairly quickly. Too bad because the conodont animal truly has been a "Great Fossil Enigma" worthy of more press than it has ever received among non-specialists.
9 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A perfect book for the Conodont historian 13. Februar 2013
Von Hymenocallis - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
First, I will mention I'm a biologist with a broad background and broad interests. And, I was really looking forward to reading this book. I was aware since I was a boy that, for a long time, nobody knew what Conodonts were. I was also aware that folks had recently found fossils of these little tooth-like elements with their surrounding soft tissue preserved. So, I was anticipating an engaging history about their first discovery, about the shifting views of what they were, and about the ultimate discovery of the animal. It took me forever to get the book from interlibrary loan since it's pretty new, and I was chomping at the bit to read it. I was gravely dissapointed. Fortunately, I didn't buy it. I have been fighting through it for the past 3 days and have gotten to page 100. I am giving up.

The primary reason is not its abstruseness. Conodonts aren't for everyone, I know. One would think that would be the point of this book. To make Conodonts available for everyone. And, I think another writer could have done it. I am certain another writer could have done better. Heck, I think Simon Knell could have done it, if he had let someone outside the field review it first. And if he had listened to them.

This should be a general rule of thumb for readers of science: unless the book is in your field, only read the ones written by journalists. Do not bother with the ones written by scientists. For example, "The Wollemi Pine" by James Woodford covers a similar topic--the discovery of a living fossil conifer in Australia. It's a terrific, engaging read. I read it in one sitting. Written by a journalist.

Instead, Knell quickly loses us by focusing on the people who did the work, and not the story. However, this too is not his main crime. I would be fine with it if the people were interesting and well-developed. The problem is he does not tell us who these people are, he only names them. So, if you thought Knell would obscure the story in a haze of scientific names, you'd be wrong. Knell does a pretty good job of keeping the names of Conodonts to a mininum. Instead, the reader becomes quickly lost in a blizzard of anonymous, forgotten Conodont specialists from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Here is an example (p. 101):

"Rhodes could also draw upon two decades of precedent to demonstrate that Sinclair's solution had been tried and had failed. The fact that Schmidt's 1934 application of the rules had been ignored by subsequent workers seemed to prove the point, though Rhodes made no attempt to eleborate why it had not succeeded. There were also other precedents for Rhode's own methods, most notably Brazilian Frederico Wldermar Lange's 1947 paper on worm teeth."

I promise, I did not have to search with difficulty for a passage like this. The entire book (so far as I am willing to discover) is like this. This just so happens to be the passage that I read last, right before I threw the book down.

Who are these people? Who cares? As a museum historian, Knell dwells on these obscure authorities, but doesn't tell us anything else about them. He only names them, and then only briefly describes what they worked on. He doesn't develop them as characters, with the possible exception of Pander, who discovered Conodonts. By struggling, I could start to make out who was who in this very narrow field, but would then soon become swamped with more names of people who were once students of somebody. AND THESE PEOPLE ARE THE REAL SUBSTANCE OF THIS BOOK, AND WHAT THIS BOOK IS REALLY ABOUT.

It's like a military history, one of those horrible ones that are simply arcane lists of regiments and their commanders. But at least at some point you know there is going to be some bloodletting. And at least there is a known audience that loves those kind of histories. Unfortunately, my guess is there is only one person out there who will enjoy this book.

Indiana University Press shares some of the blame. They are marketing this book as one of those neat-o, gee-whiz tales of discovery, like Dava Sobel's "Longitude". It has a very nicely designed jacket and a title that lures you right in. But most readers will, like me, quickly realize that they have come to the wrong place for an engaging tale. I doubt that Knell himself had originally titled the book "The Great Fossil Enigma." Consider the title of one of his other books: "The Making of the Geological Society of London; the Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851." Sound interesting? Neither is his book about Conodonts.

I would have been spared 3 days of misery if they had given it an appropriate title ("A detailed history of the museum specalists who worked on Conodonts, from Pander to Faguliani, 1834-2010") and had it been printed in a more appropriate venue (The International Jounal of Conodont Museum Science, Vol. 32:1-413).

However, if you ARE a Conodont specialist, or a historian interested in Conodont specialists, you will know who these museum personages are, and you won't be confused and become lost amongst their names. You will remember the times you had with them, and you will know that they were giants in their field. You will love this book, because you are the one person who could. You are Simon Knell.
Not really about conodonts! 16. Januar 2015
Von Mark Gordon - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
First let me say that this is an engrossing and informative read, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When I first came across this title I read the review by Hymenocallis, which initially gave me pause. However, being a former student of systematics and evolutionary biology who still follows these fields from the sidelines, I persevered, I am glad I did.

With all due respect to Hymenocallis, this is not a book about conodont morphology nor a coffee table book designed to show pretty pictures of small objects. If you want such a book, there are many other publications out there that can satisfy this need.

Actually this book is not really about conodonts at all, or at best it is only marginally about them. Rather, this book is a unique and well-written chronicle about how science works, and more specifically about the dynamic and evolving interplay between paleontological and evolutionary thought. In this respect a reader does not have to have much interest in conodonts or knowledge about them to reap rich insights at many levels, from professional politics to the processes of speciation to the practical use of academic knowlege in the industrial world (a topic, incidentally, which is currently of importance in the biotech industry).

Thumbs up for a difficult and complex story well told!
An excellent work on what are a very problematic and interesting ... 18. August 2015
Von Bruce L. Stinchcomb - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
An excellent work on what are a very problematic and interesting group of microfossils. It also is an excellent introduction as to how science actually works. I might also add that some of the major players in pioneering conodont paleontology, like E. B. Branson, were from the University of Missouri-Columbia. It's an interesting read on paleontology.
Excellent account of Conodonts’ role and history in establishing or confirming stratigraphy through the world 10. Mai 2013
Von John Huddle - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Account is well written and researched; it provides an overview of the history and confusion as to the identity of critters fossilized remains for both laymen and students of geology / paleontology . It goes on to discuss its role in helping to understand plate tectonics on a worldwide scale and eventual its life forms.
I author’s well-researched and referenced writing style is easy reading and I would recommend it to all interested in paleontology and its impact on human understanding of earths history
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