Do Lemmings Commit Suicide? : Beautiful Hypotheses and Ugly Facts
This book is a personal history and apology, written by one of this century's most distinguished small mammal ecologists, for a life in science spent working on problems for which no final dramatic conclusion was reached. Included along the way are some important anedcotes and history about Charles Elton and the pioneering work at the Bureau of Animal Population at Oxford University, from which much of modern population ecology has grown, and insights on the philosophy and practice of science.
- Paperback | 290 pages
- 154.94 x 233.68 x 17.78mm | 408.23g
- 11 Jul 1996
- Oxford University Press Inc
- New York, United States
- frontispiece, halftones, line figures
Back cover copy
In 1929, a group of scientists, working at Oxford University, began "the pursuit of the ecological Holy Grail", an endeavor devoted to the search for the secret mechanisms behind biological life cycles as they occur in many animal populations. By 1935, the group had become the Bureau of Animal Population and was joined for one year, part-time, by a newly minted graduate of the University of Toronto. Twenty-six years later, when he returned to Canada. Dennis Chitty had learned much about cycles and even more about the process of science. The results are presented here in an intriguing and often irreverent account of science, not as it should be, but as it was and is. Unlike many science books which tell of successful ventures and satisfactory conclusions, this book reveals the harsher but more common story of a scientific question left unanswered. Written by one of this century's most distinguished small-mammal ecologists, it is both a personal history and a vigorous defense of a life in pure science - even when no final dramatic closure was reached. Included along the way are important accounts of the pioneering work of Charles Elton, from which much of modern population biology has grown, and insights on the philosophy and practice of science.
Table of contents
1. Introduction ; 2. Pioneering Observations, 1929-1939 ; 3. Qualitative Changes, 1937-1939 ; 4. Wartime Rat and Mouse Control, 1939-1946 ; 5. Replication, 1946-1951 ; 6. Behavior, Physiology, and Natural Selection, 1949-1961 ; 7. Controversies, 1952-1956 ; 8. Varying the Circumstances, 1952-1959 ; 9. From Wytham Woods to Baker Lane, 1959-1962 ; 10. Synchrony, 1924-1959 ; 11. Review, 1923-1961 ; 12. Epilogue, 1961-1995
This is a beautiful hypothesis based on fairly clear assumptions that can be tested experimentally ... well written and full of interesting historical information. * Nature, Vol. 382, July 1996 *