Magazine article Natural History


Magazine article Natural History


Article excerpt

Charles Doolittle Walcott, Paleontologist

By Ellis L. Yochelson (The Kent State University Press, 1998; S49; illus.) While the first two directors of the United States Geological Survey (seminal American geologists Clarence King and John Wesley Powell) have been the subjects of biographies, the survey's third director, the redoubtable Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850-1927), has remained little known to the general reader. Yochelson, a paleontologist, geologist, and science historian, has written an engrossing account of Walcott, an expert on 500-million-year-old trilobites and the discoverer, in the horse-and-wagon days of paleontology of the famous Burgess Shale.

Dinosaur Impressions: Postcards from a Paleontologist

By Philippe Taquet; translated by Kevin Padian (Cambridge University Press, 1998; $24. 95; illus.)

French paleontologist Taquet, director of Paris's Natural History Museum recalls his thirtyyear career searching for dinosaur skeletons and other fossil treasures, inspired, he tells us, by the fictional adventures of Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger in TDe Lost World. With playful wit and profound love of his subject, Taquet includes historical asides and updates on recent discoveries that enrich his book, which has been elegantly translated by Kevin Padian, a University of California paleontologist.

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes

By Frans de Waal (The Johns Hopkins University Press, revised edition, 1998; $29.95; illus.)

This extraordinary account of schmoozing, scheming, and consensus building among a colony of captive male chimpanzees in the Netherlands, now updated, became an instant classic of primatology when it was first published sixteen years ago. Primatologist de Waal concluded that male chimpanzees are very much like humans in their "mixture of camaraderie and rivalry." While constantly competing among themselves, they present a common front to "outsiders," suggesting that human political behavior springs from primate biology and not from the "social contract" of a philosopher's imagination. …

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