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And what did she see?

Graham Robb: The Bête du Gévaudan, 19 May 2011

Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast 
by Jay Smith.
Harvard, 378 pp., £25.95, March 2011, 978 0 674 04716 7
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... In the summer of 2007, Jay Smith, who teaches history at the University of North Carolina, was in Paris collecting information for a book about a mysterious beast that terrorised the remote French province of the Gévaudan between 1764 and 1767. One day, while lunching on the place de la Sorbonne, he was warned of a terrible danger ...

The Unpredictable Cactus

Emily Witt: Mescaline, 2 January 2020

Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 297 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 0 300 23107 6
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... substance has been described more thoroughly and from such a variety of perspectives,’ Mike Jay writes in his new history, Mescaline. Its use in the Americas dates back thousands of years. It was the first psychedelic analysed by Western scientists, and in the early decades of the 20th century the only substance of its kind available to ...

The People Must Be Paid

Paul Smith: Capital cities in World War I, 7 May 1998

Capital Cities at War: Paris, London, Berlin 1914-1919 
edited by Jay Winter and Jean-Louis Robert.
Cambridge, 622 pp., £60, March 1997, 0 521 57171 5
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... with simple quantitative measures of material provision. In a very good introductory chapter, Jay Winter bases the book’s concept of well-being on Amartya Sen’s idea of ‘capabilities’ and ‘functionings’, a functioning being, in Sen’s words, ‘an achievement, whereas a capability is the ability to achieve’ or an indication of the ‘real ...

Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie, 18 May 1989

Games, Sex and Evolution 
by John Maynard Smith.
Harvester, 264 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 7108 1216 7
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... the question. And it turns out that sex is a very big problem for biologists, as John Maynard Smith explains in one of the most readable essays of this book, an essay that he has simply entitled, ‘Why sex?’. Maynard Smith is an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Sussex and the foremost theoretical ...

Tinkering

John Maynard Smith, 17 September 1981

The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 343 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 393 01380 4
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... Pandas are peculiar bears, which spend most of their days munching bamboo. To do this, they strip off the bamboo leaves by passing the stalks between their flexible thumb and the remaining fingers. But how can a panda have an opposable thumb, when in bears the thumb lies parallel to the fingers, and inseparable from them? In fact, the panda does not have a proper thumb at all: it has five parallel digits just like other bears ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... of his book on ancient Sicily in 1968, part of a three-volume history initiated by Denis Mack Smith, that he attracted much attention and won the support of the publishing house of Laterza. Finley was one of the first English-speaking historians to be aware of the importance of the works of Ettore Cicotti, to whom he returns in Evidence and Models for his ...

Tick-Tock

Malcolm Bull: Three Cheers for Apocalypse, 9 December 1999

Conversations about the End of Time 
by Umberto Eco and Stephen Jay Gould.
Allen Lane, 228 pp., £14.99, September 1999, 0 7139 9363 4
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Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs throughout the Ages 
by Eugen Weber.
Hutchinson, 294 pp., £18.99, July 1999, 0 09 180134 6
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Messianic Revolution: Radical Religious Politics to the End of the Second Millennium 
by Richard Popkin and David Katz.
Allen Lane, 303 pp., £18.99, October 1999, 0 7139 9383 9
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... and find that we were ‘out of time’. But now? Well, ‘it’s here and I like it,’ as Will Smith says in his greeting card to the new year ‘Will 2K’. There isn’t much anxiety in this song, it’s time to celebrate. What exactly? The ‘Willennium’, he helpfully suggests, ‘the party of a lifetime ... resolution: get the money’. Future ...

Did Darwin get it right?

John Maynard Smith, 18 June 1981

... by the modern synthesis. These quotations come from a recent paper in Palaeobiology by Stephen Jay Gould. What is the new theory? Is it indeed likely to replace the currently orthodox ‘neo-Darwinian’ view? Proponents of the new view make a minimum and a maximum claim. The minimum claim is an empirical one concerning the nature of the fossil record. It ...

Don’t fight sober

Mike Jay, 5 January 2017

Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare 
by Łukasz Kamieński.
Hurst, 381 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 1 84904 551 3
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Blitzed: Drugs In Nazi Germany 
by Norman Ohler.
Allen Lane, 360 pp., £20, October 2016, 978 0 241 25699 2
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... longer-acting and allegedly less addictive. Amphetamine was first brought to market in the US by Smith, Kline and French in 1934 in the form of a bronchial inhaler, Benzedrine, but its stimulant properties were soon recognised and it was made available in tablet form as a remedy for narcolepsy and a tonic against depression. As with cocaine, one of its first ...

When Gould meets Galton

A.W.F. Edwards, 30 December 1982

The Mismeasure of Man 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 352 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 393 01489 4
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... to ‘correct’ for the very distinction we are studying. As long ago as 1957, H. Fairfield Smith (in Biometrics) gave the standard riposte on adjusted means: ‘Such inferences seem analogous to saying that the difference between the observed heights of Mt Everest and Pike’s Peak is “due to” air density and is “exaggerated”, implying that it ...

Why so cross?

Thomas Nagel: Natural selection, 1 April 1999

Unweaving the Rainbow 
by Richard Dawkins.
Penguin, 350 pp., £20, October 1998, 9780713992144
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The Pattern of Evolution 
by Niles Eldredge.
Freeman, 225 pp., £17.95, February 1999, 0 7167 3046 4
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... on one side and Eldredge on the other. Eldredge is associated in this controversy with Stephen Jay Gould, his long-term research collaborator.* The disagreement, and the heat that it generates, are difficult for an outsider to understand, but they appear to have something to do with the way in which evolutionary theory is to be presented to a broader ...
Goldenballs 
by Richard Ingrams.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 144 pp., £4.25
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... Fund had an impressive range of supporters, including ‘All the staff at W.H. Smith, Kingsway (except the manager)’. Lord Goodman effectively blocked Goldsmith’s chances of buying the Observer in the autumn of 1976, but the Eye case had already generated considerable resistance among the journalistic staff. It was then that ...

How was it for you?

David Blackbourn, 30 October 1997

Man Without a Face: The Memoirs of a Spymaster 
by Markus Wolf and Anne McElvoy.
Cape, 367 pp., £17.99, June 1997, 0 224 04498 2
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The File: A Personal History 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
HarperCollins, 227 pp., £12.99, July 1997, 0 00 255823 8
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... University, a lecturer in English literature, a British national who took the code-name ‘Smith’. The most interesting is ‘Michaela’, who worked in a state art-dealer’s and reported for years on subordinates, acquaintances, friends, even her daughter’s boyfriend – out of a residual belief in the system, because she felt it her duty, as a ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 21 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... Linda died of emphysema in 1954. Porter, ‘a homosexual who had never seen the closet’, as Alan Jay Lerner put it, was always true to Linda in his fashion. After she had parted ways with her philandering first husband, who was reported to have had sadistic conjugal tastes, Linda ‘had had enough of the sexual side of marriage’, according to Brendan ...

Suppose the Archduke had ducked

Andrew Berry: Game theory and human evolution, 7 September 2000

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny 
by Robert Wright.
Little, Brown, 435 pp., £22.50, March 2000, 0 316 64485 4
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... products, and not in any general sense ‘better’ than even the lowliest bacterium. Stephen Jay Gould, in particular, has insisted that the anthropocentric Victorian perspective was fuelled more by theology than by sound biology. Like his pet theme, Spencer’s reputation, too, has been eclipsed. In the 1890s, he was well enough known to receive a ...

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