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 Dolnick, Edward







Time Lineix
Prologue England in the Early 1630s1(6)
Part One PEERING INTO THE BODY
One Onward to Glory
7(8)
Two Hidden in Deep Night
15(8)
Three Swallowing Stones and Drinking Dew
23(14)
Four Unmoored in Time
37(15)
Five "Double, Double Toil and Trouble"
52(12)
Six Door A or Door B?
64(17)
Part Two THE SEARCH FOR THE EGG
Seven Missing: One Universe (Reward to Finder)
81(8)
Eight Sharks' Teeth and Cows' Eggs
89(7)
Nine The Egg, At Last
96(8)
Ten A World in a Drop of Water
104(10)
Eleven "Animals of the Semen"
114(11)
Part Three RUSSIAN DOLLS
Twelve Dolls Within Dolls
125(13)
Thirteen The Message in God's Fine Print
138(10)
Fourteen Sea of Troubles
148(12)
Fifteen The Rabbit Woman of Godliman
160(12)
Sixteen "All in Pieces, All Coherence Gone"
172(13)
Seventeen The Cathedral That Built Itself
185(12)
Eighteen A Vase in Silhouette
197(12)
Part Four THE CLOCKWORK TOPPLES AND A NEW THEORY RISES
Nineteen Frogs in Silk Pants
209(11)
Twenty A Drop of Venom
220(8)
Twenty-One The Craze of the Century
228(10)
Twenty-Two "I Saw the Dull Yellow Eye of the Creature Open"
238(8)
Twenty-Three The Nose of the Sphinx
246(6)
Twenty-Four "The Game Is Afoot"
252(6)
Twenty-Five Caught!
258(7)
Acknowledgments265(1)
Illustration Credits266(1)
Notes267(22)
Bibliography289(8)
Index297


A history of the early scientists who engaged in genius or quack experiments in their effort to explain human conception profiles the remarkable theories that reflected period innovation, religious beliefs, and personal biases.





Edward Dolnick is the former chief science writer for The Boston Globe and is the author of, among others, The Rush and The Clockwork Universe. He splits his time between Virginia and New York City.





In this unexpectedly amusing history, the author investigates a question few readers will have ever considered: When did people figure out where babies come from? Dolnick (The Clockwork Universe, 2011), formerly the chief science writer for the Boston Globe, is well aware that the sexual act itself has been sorted out for centuries, but figuring out just what happened during sex to, sometimes, create a baby is where things got dicey. Dolnick explores all manner of experiments conducted from the seventeenth century forward by a long list of scientists (all male), many aimed at trying to understand just what role women had in the process, other than providing a necessary "field" for an able man's seed. From the bizarre, including a woman who claimed to have given birth to rabbits, to the divine-some scientists insisted that God's hand was a critical component to conception-Dolnick follows an array of trails. Combining first-class research and a truly delightful writing style, Dolnick shares his fascination with the history of science and our perception of reproduction in this enlightening and enjoyable read. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.





A history of the "search for the solution to the sex and conception mystery," focused on the period between 1650 and 1900.As former Boston Globe chief science writer Dolnick (The Rush: America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848-1853, 2014, etc.) notes at the beginning of his latest book, "not everyone has wondered why the stars shine or why the earth spins," but "every person who has ever lived has asked where babies come from." Thoughtful scientists have confidently delivered the wrong answer, and the author provides a delightful history of what happened until they got it right. Everyone knew that an egg was involved, although brilliant anatomists (Vesalius, William Harvey) searched humans in vain. Semen was essential and—as men were considered the superior sex—the most important factor, but its role remained mysterious. When Antonie van Leeuwenhoek turned his microscope on his semen in the 1670s, he believed that each of the innumerable wiggling creatures contain ed a tiny human. Most scientists disagreed, insisting that the tiny human resided inside the still-unobserved human egg. This was "preformism." To early scientists, making an embryo from nothing was absurd. More refined experiments and the discovery that cells make up all living things produced impressive advances, but it was not until 1875 that a German biologist who remains mostly unknown (Oscar Hertwig) first saw a single sperm penetrate an egg (of a sea urchin) and fuse with the nucleus, after which the cell began to divide. Researchers then turned their attention to what happens afterward, but, having effectively answered the big question, Dolnick stops there. 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. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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