Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science

Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science


By (author) Carol Kaesuk Yoon

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  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Format: Paperback | 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 137mm x 203mm x 23mm | 295g
  • Publication date: 21 September 2010
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0393338711
  • ISBN 13: 9780393338713
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 495,240

Product description

Biologist and journalist Carol Kaesuk Yoon takes us beyond genus and species to deep cognition, revealing our drive to name life. She tells the strange story of scientists leading people away from the impulse to name the living world, even as they are driven by it. Naming Nature, sure to delight readers who love words and nature, is a rich journey of naming from Linnaeus, whose system turned classification from a hobby to a science and Darwin, who ended the idea of rigid species definitions, to today's dream of naming all of earth's species and listing them online. Readers will see science's limitations and will feel the urgency of staying connected to the natural world by using familiar, rather than scientific, names. Naming Nature illuminates the reasons why we might care less whether a whale is a fish or a mammal as long as we know its importance in our world.

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Author information

Carol Kaesuk Yoon writes for The New York Times "Science Times". She has a BS in biology from Yale University and a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University.

Review quote

"...this is an inspiring and unputdownable read." BBC Wildlife "...a compelling account of how... the human brain is programmed to order and make sense of the natural world and prone to react badly when that order is challenged.A" Jennie Erin Smith, The Times Literary Supplement "...began life as a paean to the work of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who invented the science of classification, or taxonomy. It ended up being something much more profound, however, as Carol Kaesuk Yoon came to believe that taxonomy is 'no ordinary science'." New Statesman "A lively blend of popular scientific history and cultural criticism." The New York Times Book Review "The author has an engaging anecdotal style, making this an intriguing read for anyone who wants a basic understanding of the story of why and how we name organisms." Birdwatch "...a compelling account..." The Times Literary Supplement

Back cover copy

Advance praise for Naming Nature: "Original, delightful, and wise. . . . Yoon descends from the best writers of popular science, Stephen Jay Gould and Brian Greene among them."-Sue Halpern, author of Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly "Naming Nature will be enjoyed by every biologist, birder, and general nature lover."-Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University, and author of The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment "Naming Nature is rich with prickly characters, from Linnaeus to Ernst Mayr to Willi Hennig, who animate the fascinating story of how science has learned to find a deep orderliness within life's diversity."-David Quammen, author of The Reluctant Mr. Darwin "To name is to know is to be able to love, and that is biodiversity's last best hope: Such is the thesis of this compelling, quirky, beautifully written guide."-David Takacs, author of Philosophies of Paradise: The Idea of Biodiversity "A fascinating history of science, an illumination of nature's improbable exuberance, and a thoughtful evaluation of occasional conflict between man-made definitions and living reality."-Deborah Blum, author of Monkey Wars "Optimistic, exhilarating and revolutionary."-Publishers Weekly, starred review