The Tangled Tree by David Quammen

The Tangled Tree

Nonpareil science writer David Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life’s history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature. In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field—the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the mo...

Details The Tangled Tree

TitleThe Tangled Tree
Release DateAug 14th, 2018
PublisherSimon Schuster
GenreScience, Nonfiction, History, Biology, Evolution, Environment, Nature

Reviews The Tangled Tree

  • Jonna Higgins-Freese
    A large part of the book was about Carl Woese, a character who was odd, but about whom I really could not care. He used early, difficult sequencing techniques to identify the Archaea, an entirely separate form of life, different from bacteria, plants, and animals. But since this was already old news when I had Bio 101 in 1990-91, I already knew about the Archaea, and the details of its discovery and identification just weren't that riveting the w...
  • Angie
    This is a book at war with itself, trying to be many things at the same time. It is a well-written examination of evolution, the inadequacy of the standard tree metaphor for it, and the messiness of gene transfer. Quammen explores horizontal gene transfer and the uncertainty in what a species actually is, what an individual is (with all the little cells that live in us but don't share DNA). This is timely and fascinating stuff.It is also a biogra...
  • Carol Kean
    Comprehensive, exhaustive, entertaining, at times gossipy, and altogether wonderful! If more science books were so rich with stories of the scientists, more students might be riveted to classes in genetics and evolutionary biology.I cannot imagine the years of research that must have gone into the writing of this book. Interviews with authors living or then-living, now-dead, bring to life the drama and controversies and obstacles that beset even ...
  • Gail
    Let’s start here: Mind. Blown. Few books I’ve read in my long life have had such a walloping impact. This deserves the National Book Award for non-fiction. It’s that good. Do you wonder about the origin of life? Evolution? The “whats” and the “hows” more than the “whys”? This is the story of what we’ve learned about how living organisms emerged and grew into the endless variety we have today. It’s a story in which bacteria a...
  • Carol Peters
    Excellent. Boatloads of stuff I didn't know about that has been discovered during the past twenty years of bio-evolutionary-mathematical-physics. What is so far known about horizontal gene transfer.Was sorry it ended.Highly recommend.
  • Tfalcone
    Thank you Net Galley for the free ARC: This is a very thorough book on the development of the tree of life from Darwin's humble beginnings to the three domain system that Carl Woese developed. There are many more contributors of course, too many to name them all - Haeckel, Margulis, Doolittle - but this book is really an homage to Woese. I have a fairly wide biology background, so some of this was review. I do feel the book is for professionals a...
  • Dennis
    This book provides an extremely interesting, enjoyable, and readable overview of the history of the theory of evolution, from Darwin and before, up to the most current ideas. The central figure in the book is Carl Woese, who discovered Archaea, and there are also many engaging mini-biographies of other important figures (Charles Darwin, of course, but also Ernst Haeckel, Lynn Margulis, Ford Doolittle, and several others), and explanations of thei...
  • Patrick C.
    This book progresses on two levels. It focuses on how advances in the field of molecular biology have revealed unexpected new information about the operations of RNA & DNA that, in turn, have had an even more profound impact on fundamental theories of the evolution of life on earth. The impact has directly revised some of Darwin’s core ideas, most visibly, the very idea (and image) of the “tree of life”.The second level deals with the life ...
  • Billie Hinton
    If, like me, you studied biology in the 1970s, this lively book by David Quammen will catch you up with new information and research while being entertaining at the same time. A romp through the history of evolution and the tree of life method of biological categorization reads like a mystery, with suspense and action. The main and very interesting characters are the scientists behind the new perspectives Quammen reveals in wonderful anecdotes an...
  • James Davisson
    Like my last read, "God Save Texas," a blend of nonfiction genres, with an intriguing focus. Similarly difficult to sum up; "a new history of life" doesn't really capture it. Is this a biography of Carl Woese, discoverer of the Archaea; an examination of a rich and fruitful idea, the tree of life; or a history of a discipline, molecular biology? Yes. All of the elements here are strong, by my favorite is the author's voice: personal, not self-abs...
  • Don Kent
    I confess I struggled with the first 300 pages of this fine book but I perserveered and the final 90 odd pages were certainly worth the struggle. As profound as it was at times dificult, David Quammen has once again proven to me that he is one of finest of authors taking on the tough subjects in science. Retrospectively, I cannot fathom how the subject could have been addressed any other way but the degree of difficulty cost him one star.
  • Gladys Schrynemakers
    Great book that takes the discussion of evolution to the next level.
  • Tim Dugan
    It’s ok but I wish it had more technical details. The people stories are ok but less valuable than the science
  • Mark Waggoner
    I listened to the audiobook version of this, something I have seldom done before. I’m not sure I would have made it through it in print, but very much enjoyed it in audio form.