by Greg Mayer
Another book that was just published in August is a new textbook of evolution intended for biology majors, Evolution: Making Sense of Life, by Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen; the title evokes Theodosius Dobzhansky‘s famous 1973 paper “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (pdf). Carl Zimmer, a science writer and journalist, should be well familiar to WEIT readers, while Douglas Emlen, a biology professor at the University of Montana who works on sexual selection, has also drawn attention here at WEIT for his marvelous photographs of beetle weapons (and I wonder if he’s related to the famous Emlen family of biologists). Many illustrations have been provided by Carl Buell, the noted scientific illustrator. (I reviewed a couple of chapters in manuscript.)
The book is an interesting collaboration between a science writer and a biologist. There have been other such collaborations, usually for large multi-author introductory textbooks, where a writer is brought on to meld together and bring unity of voice to the disparate writing styles of the many scientific authors. In this case however, Zimmer is already a noted author on evolutionary topics, having written such books as At the Water’s Edge (my favorite) and Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea (a companion to the PBS series), and had previously written The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution, intended as a non-majors text. The new majors’ text grew in part out of this earlier book.
The book is published by Roberts and Company of Greenwood Village, Colorado, a relatively new publisher that is quickly making a name for itself in academic biology publishing. In addition to textbooks, they publish important monographic works (e.g. Trevor Price’s Speciation in Birds, the perfect complement to Jerry and Allen Orr’s Speciation). We’ve noted one of their books, edited by Jonathan Losos, here at WEIT before.