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The Most Perfect Thing Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg by Tim Birkhead
  

The Most Perfect Thing Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg

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Shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2016.

Firmly grounded in science and enriched by a wealth of observation drawn from a lifetime spent studying birds, The Most Perfect Thing is an illuminating and engaging exploration of the science behind eggs and the history of man's obsession with them.

Synopsis

The Most Perfect Thing Inside (and Outside) a Bird's Egg by Tim Birkhead

'I think that, if required on pain of death to name instantly the most perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on a bird's egg' Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1862 How are eggs of different shapes made, and why are they the shape they are? When does the shell of an egg harden? Why do some eggs contain two yolks? How are the colours and patterns of an eggshell created, and why do they vary? And which end of an egg is laid first - the blunt end or the pointy end? These are just some of the questions A Bird's Egg answers, as the journey of a bird's egg from creation and fertilisation to its eventual hatching is examined, with current scientific knowledge placed within an historical context. Beginning with an examination of the stunning eggs of the guillemot, each of which is so variable in pattern and colour that no two are ever the same, acclaimed ornithologist Tim Birkhead then looks at the eggs of hens, cuckoos and many other birds, revealing weird and wonderful facts about these miracles of nature. Woven around and supporting these facts are extraordinary stories of the individuals who from as far back as Ancient Egypt have been fixated on the study and collection of eggs, not always to the benefit of their conservation.

Reviews

'The title is also a perfect description of the book itself - full of wonder and surprise and beautifully written' -- Nick Davies, author of Cuckoo

'Birkhead's approach to writing - hard, clear sentences; deep, revelatory looking - has the same effect as his microscope, bringing objects to light that were previously hidden, making us see the familiar with new eyes ... After reading The Most Perfect Thing, you'll never dip your morning soldiers without a shiver of wonder at the complexity and resourcefulness of the humble egg.' -- Alex Preston Observer

'Eye-opening ... Thoroughly engaging, it also gives us a thrilling sense of the vast, unmapped territories that lie beyond, waiting to be discovered' Sunday Times

'Superb ... like having the top of your own head lifted off and its contents deliciously stirred: no one after reading this book could think it was possible to know too much, no one could think science removes us from feeling' Observer

'What Birkhead does is show to anyone interested in nature why any such object is a source of wonder and fascination ... Innovative work. Birkhead has made birds
eggs interesting again, by giving us a new way of looking at them: not as commodities to be drooled over and collected, but as wonders of natural science ... Birkhead answers all the basic questions with panache, but other, stranger facts caught my imagination even more ... Yet it is the incredible mechanisms of the life-support system, which Birkhead lays bare with perfect clarity, that are the most wondrous' -- Michael McCarthy Independent

About the Author

Tim Birkhead is a professor at the University of Sheffield where he teaches animal behaviour and the history of science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and his research has taken him all over the world in the quest to understand the lives of birds. He has written for the Independent, New Scientist, BBC Wildlife. Among his other books are Promiscuity, Great Auk Islands, The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Birds which won the McColvin medal, The Red Canary which won the Consul Cremer Prize, The Wisdom of Birds and Bird Sense. He is married with three children and lives in Sheffield.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999

Author

Tim Birkhead

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Publisher

Format

Hardback

Categories

Popular Science
The Real World
All Shortlists and Winners


ISBN

9781408851258

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