The Seeds of Life: Book summary and reviews of The Seeds of Life by Edward Dolnick

The Seeds of Life

From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From

by Edward Dolnick

The Seeds of Life by Edward Dolnick X
The Seeds of Life by Edward Dolnick
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Book Summary

Why cracking the code of human conception took centuries of wild theories, misogynist blunders, and ludicrous mistakes.

Throughout most of human history, babies were surprises. People knew the basics: men and women had sex, and sometimes babies followed. But beyond that the origins of life were a colossal mystery. The Seeds of Life is the remarkable and rollicking story of how a series of blundering geniuses and brilliant amateurs struggled for two centuries to discover where, exactly, babies come from.

Taking a page from investigative thrillers, acclaimed science writer Edward Dolnick looks to these early scientists as if they were detectives hot on the trail of a bedeviling and urgent mystery. These strange searchers included an Italian surgeon using shark teeth to prove that female reproductive organs were not 'failed' male genitalia, and a Catholic priest who designed ingenious miniature pants to prove that frogs required semen to fertilize their eggs.

A witty and rousing history of science, The Seeds of Life presents our greatest scientists struggling - against their perceptions, their religious beliefs, and their deep-seated prejudices - to uncover how and where we come from.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A delightful history...[Seeds of Life is] the best sort of science history, explaining not only how great men made great discoveries, but why equally great men, trapped by prejudices and what seemed to be plain common sense, missed what was in front of their noses." - Kirkus

"An enlightening and quick read that delves into the details of a topic that readers might think they know all about. Those interested in the early modern period and the history of science in Europe will particularly appreciate this title." - Library Journal

"Substantive background on the work of such figures as William Harvey and Luigi Galvani may feel like a diversion to readers only interested in reproductive biology, but Dolnick composes a cohesive narrative around his central question while noting its appeal as a side topic to key thinkers in science." - Publishers Weekly

"Well-researched and engagingly written, The Seeds of Life is a charmer of history: quotable, fast-paced, and a reminder that science's messy, fumbling, and flat-out faulty progress is often much stranger than fiction!" - Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, author of Dr. Mutter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine

"In clear and engaging prose, Edward Dolnick traces the fascinating breakthroughs, and even more interesting blind alleys, explored by these pioneers of procreation. It's a history lesson and a biology lesson, enriched by vivid portraits of the often eccentric but always remarkable men who wielded scalpels and microscopes, trying to explain where babies come from." - Ernest Freeberg, author of The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America

"A wonderful, astonishing story, beautifully told. Edward Dolnick has surpassed himself (and everyone else)!" - David Wootton, author of The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution

The information about The Seeds of Life shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Edward Dolnick Author Biography

Photo credit: Jerry Bauer

Edward Dolnick is author of Down the Great Unknown, Madness on the Couch, The Rescue Artist, The Forger's Spell, The Clockwork Universe and his latest work America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848-1853. A former chief science writer at the Boston Globe, he has written for the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. He has two grown sons and lives with his wife near Washington, D.C.

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