By Stephen Jay Gould

Along with his general brilliance, Gould examines the puzzles and paradoxes nice and small that construct nature’s and humanity’s range and order

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Extra info for Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History

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Leonardo made observations 7 through 9 to refute this Neoplatonic theory that fossils “grew” within their entombing rocks and do not represent the remains of organisms. If marine fossils are inorganic, why don’t they “grow” in all strata, rather than only in rocks carrying abundant evidence of an oceanic origin (observation 7)? If fossils belong to the mineral kingdom, why should they so often grow in fragments and jumbles looking exactly like piles of shells on our beaches, or layers deposited by rivers in lakes and ponds (observation 8)?

How many of you know his name? How many even recognized the words as identifying a person, rather than a tiny 51 l e o n a r d o ’s m o u n t a i n o f c l a m s a n d t h e d i e t o f w o r m s principality somehow never noticed in our atlas or stamp album? Yet one can make a good argument—certainly in symbolic terms for the enterprise he represented, if not in actuality for his personal influence—that Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the most important figure in the entire nineteenthcentury history of Britain.

One of Turner’s most brilliant sunsets—with clear metaphorical meaning—occupies the right half of the painting. The most majestic and heart-stopping product of the old order sails passively to her death, towed by a relatively diminutive object of the new technology. ” Turner clearly set his scene for romance and meaning, not for accuracy. Ships sold for timber were always demasted, so the Temeraire sailed to her doom as a hulk without masts, sails, or rigging of any sort—a most uninspiring, if truthful, image.

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