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The Lagoon How Aristotle Invented Science

by Armand Marie Leroi

Popular Science

The Lagoon How Aristotle Invented Science Synopsis

In the Eastern Aegean lies an island of forested hills and olive groves, with streams, marshes and a lagoon that nearly cuts the land in two. It was here, over two thousand years ago, that Aristotle came to work. Aristotle was the greatest philosopher of all time. Author of the Poetics, Politics and Metaphysics, his work looms over the history of Western thought. But he was also a biologist - the first. Aristotle explored the mysteries of the natural world. With the help of fishermen, hunters and farmers, he catalogued the animals in his world, dissected them, observed their behaviours and recorded how they lived, fed, and bred. In his great zoological treatise, Historia animalium, he described the mating habits of herons, the sexual incontinence of girls, the stomachs of snails, the sensitivity of sponges, the flippers of seals, the sounds of cicadas, the destructiveness of starfish, the dumbness of the deaf, the flatulence of elephants and the structure of the human heart. And then, in another dozen books, he explained it all. In The Lagoon, acclaimed biologist Armand Marie Leroi recovers Aristotle's science. He goes to Lesbos to see the creatures that Aristotle saw, where he saw them, and explores the Philosopher's deep ideas and inspired guesses - as well as the things that he got wildly wrong.

The Good Book Guide Review

In 345BC Aristotle, a young and newly married philosopher disillusioned with Plato’s teaching, arrived on a beautiful Aegean island of Lesbos. There is a lagoon there that cuts the island nearly in two, where Aristotle started observing the natural world, recording how things lived and using his discoveries to explain the world we live in. In this sizeable and thoughtfully put together book, the evolutionary biologist Leroi offers a unique portrayal of Aristotle as a philosopher, scientist and a founding father of biology. As well as providing an engaging examination of Aristotle’s zoological research, Leroi draws an illuminating distinction between Aristotelian teleology and Darwinian adaptationism, highlighting interesting aspects of Aristotle’s cosmology. The author’s appreciation and admiration of Aristotle, as well as of the beauty of the natural world Aristotle was surrounded by, is wonderfully transparent and evocative. Beautifully written with a lively narrative, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and highly informative read.

The Lagoon How Aristotle Invented Science Press Reviews

'Beautifully written and always engrossing ... often recalls Foucault at his most lurid and gothic' -  Daily Telegraph on Mutants


Mutants thrills and repels and informs us of the delicacy and wonder of growth and development. It is written with great grace -  Richard Fortey, author of The Earth

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781408836200
Publication date: 28/08/2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781408836200
Publication date: 28th August 2014
Author: Armand Marie Leroi
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback
Genres: Popular Science,

About Armand Marie Leroi

Armand Marie Leroi is Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology at Imperial College London. He studied in Halifax, Canada, and Irvine, CA, and did post-doctoral work at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As well as many technical papers, he is the author of Mutants: On the Form, Variety and Errors of the Human Body (2003), which has been translated into nine languages and won the Guardian First Book Award. He lives in London.

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