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8 February 1990
The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World 
by Luciano Canfora, translated by Martin Ryle.
Radius, 205 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 09 174049 5
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Herodotus 
by John Gould.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 9780297793397
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... books himself; we read of the struggles to acquire a Greek version of the Old Testament for the library, and of the translation finally completed by 72 translators in 72 days; we read, at the end, of John Philoponus and his nearly successful attempts to win over the Arab conquerors in order to reprieve the library; and there is much, much more. In all this Canfora is not just telling a story: in the ...

On Darwin’s Trouble with the Finches

Andrew Berry: The genius of Charles Darwin

7 March 2002
Evolution’s Workshop: God and Science on the Galapagos Islands 
by Edward Larson.
Penguin, 320 pp., £8.99, February 2002, 0 14 100503 3
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... some time in September or October 1835, during the Beagle’s five-week visit to the Galapagos Islands. The Beagle had been at sea for nearly four years, and, as he wrote to his Cambridge mentor, John Henslow, Charles Darwin was increasingly anxious to get home: ‘I look forward with joy and interest to [visiting the Galapagos], both as being somewhat nearer to England, & for the sake of having a ...

Diary

Patrick Wright: The Cult of Tyneham

24 November 1988
... range should be shifted from Dorset. Local support for the Army was quickly stirred up and, with the Government wavering, the Tyneham campaigners played their last card. Lord Fenner Brockway took JohnGould, a road-sweeper who was already among Tyneham’s most symbolised villagers, to 10 Downing Street. A life-long member of the Labour Party, Gould presented Harold Wilson with a wreath made of ...
23 April 1987
Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Harvard, 219 pp., £15.50, May 1987, 0 674 89198 8
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... Years ago Sir John Plumb declared: ‘The past is dead.’ He didn’t add: ‘long live history.’ But try as historians will to put the past behind them, others are always resurrecting it and abusing it for their ...

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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... the panda does not have a proper thumb at all: it has five parallel digits just like other bears. The apparent ‘thumb’ is a modification and extension of a small bone in the wrist. For Stephen Gould, this is a particular and fascinating fact, but it is also an illustration of a general principle. The principle is that evolution proceeds by tinkering with what is already there, and not by ...
16 April 1998
Joe Gould's Secret 
by Joseph Mitchell.
Cape, 200 pp., £9.99, October 1997, 0 224 05107 5
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... pieces for the piano; and Commodore Dutch, ‘a brassy little man who has made a living for the last forty years by giving an annual ball for the benefit of himself’. And the book introduces Joe Gould, the character who would become Mitchell’s dependant, shadow, mirror-image and bête noire. Mitchell first wrote about ‘blithe and emaciated Joe Gould’ in 1942, in a profile entitled ...

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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... have a string of popular works behind them. They also have a history of disagreement, with Dawkins 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 ...

In the Chair

Edward Said

17 July 1997
Glenn GouldThe Ecstasy and the Tragedy of Genius 
by Peter Ostwald.
Norton, 368 pp., $29.95, May 1997, 0 393 04077 1
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When the Music Stops: Managers, Maestros and the Corporate Murder of Classical Music 
by Norman Lebrecht.
Simon and Schuster, 400 pp., £7.99, July 1997, 0 671 01025 5
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... One of the most talked and written about musicians after World War Two, Glenn Gould quite consciously set about making himself interesting and eccentric. Most performers do, but Gould went beyond anyone. It helped a great deal that he had a phenomenal digital gift, a perfect memory, a very high intelligence, but in addition he was self-conscious and self-observant to an extent ...

Allendistas

D.A.N. Jones

5 November 1992
Death in Chile: A Memoir and a Journey 
by Tony Gould.
Picador, 277 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 330 32271 0
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Some write to the future 
by Ariel Dorfman, translated by George Shivers and Ariel Dorfman.
Duke, 271 pp., £10.95, May 1992, 0 8223 1269 7
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... Africa, Bosnia or Somalia. We might meet them in our student days. I remember a Chilean who rebuffed the college manciple: ‘Are you asking me or are you telling me – peasant?’ Similarly, Tony Gould met a Chilean caballero, when they were Cambridge undergraduates, some thirty years ago. He was called Cristian Huneeus, a young man of landed family, a gentlemanly left-winger and already a ...

Past Masters

Raymond Williams

25 June 1987
Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the 19th Century 
by Marjorie Reeves and Warwick Gould.
Oxford, 365 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 19 826672 3
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Beauty and Belief: Aesthetics and Religion in Victorian Literature 
by Hilary Fraser.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £25, January 1987, 0 521 30767 8
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The Correspondence of John​ Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton 
edited by John​ Bradley and Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 537 pp., £45, April 1987, 0 521 32091 7
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... of persistent political reaction, and of more specific kinds of political resignation, even the jetsam has its fascination: yet there is also a more serious problem, which the new study by Reeves and Gould directly addresses. By what actual processes are ideas preserved, circulated and developed? ‘Can the ideas of one person or group lurk around in the atmosphere, having, as it were, a continuing ...
1 December 1983
Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 413 pp., £11.95, September 1983, 0 393 01716 8
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The Great Chain of History: William Buckland and the English School of Geology, 1814-1849 
by Nicolaas Rupke.
Oxford, 322 pp., £22.50, September 1983, 0 19 822907 0
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... In the concluding essay of an adventurous collection, Stephen Jay Gould observes that most ‘classic stories’ in science are wrong. There are good reasons why he is right. In their reconstruction of the past, practising scientists have been apt to celebrate the ...

Putting on the Plum

Christopher Tayler: Richard Flanagan

31 October 2002
Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish 
by Richard Flanagan.
Atlantic, 404 pp., £16.99, June 2002, 1 84354 021 5
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... looking for a new line of work. Rummaging in a junk shop on a draughty winter morning, he comes across a dilapidated book. He steals it, reads it, and becomes obsessed. This book is the manuscript of Gould’s Book of Fish, which immediately announces itself as something special. Its binding emits a supernatural glow, and – rather like Borges’s ominous ‘Book of Sand’ – its contents don’t ...

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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... Interviewed by the BBC 25 years after Herbert Spencer’s death, Beatrice Webb, who had known him well, referred to him as Darwin’s John the Baptist. Spencer would have relished the description, which is in many ways appropriate: he coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ and was responsible for popularising the term ...

Going Against

Frank Kermode: Is There a Late Style?

5 October 2006
On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain 
by Edward Said.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £16.99, April 2006, 9780747583653
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Late Thoughts: Reflections on Artists and Composers at Work 
edited by Karen Painter and Thomas Crow.
Getty, 235 pp., $40, August 2006, 0 89236 813 6
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... examples of late style. Adorno, who despised Strauss (‘a composing machine’ producing ‘illusory’ music), would not have approved, so Said here listens instead to another of his heroes, Glenn Gould. Gould was a serious admirer of Strauss, whom he praised for employing ‘the fullest riches of late romantic tonality’. But Said is interested also in an affinity the composer exploits between the ...

The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond

15 October 1987
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... Whig ministry was persuaded to put up £1000, allowing the young Darwin to dispense his own patronage. He parcelled out his Beagle specimens to white-collar naturalists: to zoological craftsmen like JohnGould (who reciprocated by christening a new rhea darwinii after him). Darwin modelled his Zoology on Humboldt’s Zoologie, acting as taskmaster and paymaster chivvying a Gradgrind work-force. Not ...

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