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I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History    by Stephen Jay Gould order for
I Have Landed
by Stephen Jay Gould
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2003 (2002)

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* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

Stephen Jay Gould, who died after the publication of this book, was perhaps the premiere 'popular science' writer; his column in Natural History magazine ran for more than a quarter of a century, and yielded a series of essay collections that are breathtaking in their range and delightful in their presentation. I Have Landed, Gould's final collection (he stopped writing the column in 2001), touches on the subjects closest to him, the themes that stayed with him through his long career, that shaped his thinking and his life.

Here you'll find ruminations on butterfly taxonomist (and world-famous novelist) Vladimir Nabokov; on Darwin; on evolution and exploration and fossils and luck and much, much more. What made Gould so special was his unique ability to take complex scientific ideas and terminology and explain them simply, but without dumbing them down. Carl Sagan could do this; so could Lewis Thomas, but their writings were a tad more specialized. Gould was more wide-ranging: professionally, for instance, he was a professor of geology, and a professor of zoology, and the curator of invertebrate paleontology at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology. In his column, he would write about pretty much everything: sports, language, entertainment, tying it all in to science in some wonderful, special way.

Gould will be missed greatly (at least by me, one of his biggest fans), and I Have Landed, his last book, reminds us just how important he was.

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