In a series of vivid portraits of single-minded scientists, ecologist Rob Dunn traces the history of biological discovery, from the establishment of species classification in the 18th century to today's attempts to find life in space. The narrative telescopes from one scientist's attempt to find a single thing (a rare ant-emulating beetle species) to another scientist's attempt to find everything in a small patch of jungle in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. With poetry and humor, Dunn reminds readers how tough and exhilarating it is to study the natural world, and why it matters.
"Dunn ranges from Antoine van Leeuwenhoek's amazing microscopic discoveries in the scientific backwater of 17th-century Delft to a major 20th-century undertaking to explore life near deep sea vents where the ocean floor is expanding. But Dunn has a deeper message: life is more diverse and less like us than we had imagined. Indeed, he says, humans are far from central in the story of life's evolution on Earth.... Finally, Dunn writes about scientific hubris: virtually every scientific prediction about conditions limiting life has been proven incorrect."—Publishers Weekly