I first encountered Stephen Jay Gould when I happened on one of his books in a bookshop during my late teens. Its unusual title, The Panda’s Thumb, caught my eye. The lead article channelled Charles Darwin’s approach to understanding the natural world, not through looking at perfect adaptations to the environment but through recognising that nature works with what it has, often inelegantly and always surprisingly. It was the perfect foil for creationist bunkum and appealed to the evolving sceptic in me. Gould’s writing opened up a complex, fascinating natural world, one that promised an endless source of wonder. The type of writing epitomised by Gould (who died in 2002) – accessible, intelligent, and entertaining – has inspired generations, and, I am glad to say, continues today in the likes of The Best Australian Science Writing 2018, edited by John Pickrell.
Paul Humphries reviews 'The Best Australian Science Writing 2018' edited by John Pickrell
The Best Australian Science Writing 2018
edited by edited by John Pickrell
NewSouth, $29.99 pb, 302 pp, 9781742235882
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Paul Humphries lectures in ecology and animal diversity and studies the ecology of rivers at Charles Sturt University. He has published many scientific papers, book chapters, history of science, and opinion pieces. He is co-editor of Ecology of Australian Freshwater Fishes (CSIRO Publishing, 2013) and a children’s picture book, Arnold Jeffrey/Jeffrey Arnold (Windy Hollows Books, 2017).
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