Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral

ISBN: 0375421610

Category: Technical

Tag: Science/Engineering


Posted on 2011-11-20. By anonymous.

Description


David Dobbs, "Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral"
Pa....on | 2005-01-04 | ISBN: 0375421610 | 320 pages | EPUB + MOBI | 3,2 MB + 2 MB

Explores the century-long controversy over the orgins of coral reefs, a debate that split the world of nineteenth-century science, looking at the diverse roles of Louis Agassiz, his son Alexander, and Charles Darwin and reflecting on how the search for the truth shed new light on the formation of Earth and its natural wonders.

Charles Darwin's first scientific splash, a theory on the formation of coral atolls, is now accepted; but it had a rival in a theory advanced by naturalist Alexander Agassiz. Dobbs approaches this chapter in scientific history from a number of perspectives, including Alexander's personality as formed in the shadow of his father, Louis, one of the most famous naturalists of the Victorian era. On a more abstract level, Dobbs discusses the balance between induction and deduction in scientific reasoning. The biography is inherently more interesting, and Dobbs highlights the contrast between Alexander's introspection and his father's charisma and self-centeredness. By the 1870s, Louis Agassiz rigidly resisted Darwinism; Alexander accepted evolution but not, when he learned of data collected on the seminal expedition of the Challenger, Darwin's idea about atolls. Darwin contended they formed around subsiding mountains; Alexander maintained the coral accreted upward. Describing Agassiz's voyages to atolls, Dobbs skillfully relates a story that, if lacking a triumphant ending, yet depicts Agassiz's quiet drama in constructing a theory, wrong though it was. --Gilbert Taylor

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