Martin Wells - Civilization and the Limpet

"Sailing at night in seas that luminesce is something splendid that is not given to all men. On a quiet night, with just enough wind to ghost along without the engine, it can be euphoric. Euphoria is worth seeking, we don't often achieve it in this rush around world. You need a pause, or you miss it." (p. 94)
What a wonderful book! Wells writes with a quirky flair that entertains as it informs. Similar to Darwin's Dreampond (in more ways than just this one) it is difficult to pigeon hole Civilization and the Limpet into one category. It is poetry, novel, evolution textbook, nature writing, and a few other things all wrapped up in one.

Twenty-five short essays fill the volume that all, more or less, deal with marine life. Subtle metaphors applicable to us humans are included in most, and all are educational in their own right. Those of us who aren't lucky enough to be professional naturalists will certainly become amateur naturalists before finishing even a few of the essays.

Lovers of the natural world (and the ancient world) will love Civilization and the Limpet.

"Ponder these things, because they are important. But avoid principles. Principles are as often as not an excuse to stop thinking about matters that are difficult because they require judgment, and, as such, principles often constitute a sort of moral cowardice." (p. 119)
From The Publisher:
In the spirit of Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell or the many works of Stephen J. Gould, zoologist Martin Wells takes us on a journey to explore the wonders of marine life.

Written during a long sea voyage from England through the Mediterranean, Civilization and the Limpet unveils many fascinating phenomena of undersea life. Wells captures with exquisite detail how limpets, like bees, navigate by the stars; how the brainless sea urchin makes a myriad of critical survival decisions every day; how "deserted islands" teem with an incredible abundance of animal life; and why deep-diving whales never get the bends.

Elegant and finely crafted, Civilization and the Limpet will enlighten, amuse, and awe anyone interested in the natural world.

Martin Wells, a Reader in the Zoology Department at Cambridge University, has been delighting radio, TV, and "live" audiences for decades. He is the author of three academic books on invertebrate physiology, and You and Me and the Animal World.

"In science you are never proved correct. You only have the best explanation until a better one turns up. That's part of the fun of the game." (p. 187)
"In this superbly accessible book, Martin Wells reveals twenty-five self-contained tide-pools for the scientific imagination." -- George B. Dyson, author of Darwin Among the Machines
"Like a latter-day Darwin or Huxley, cruising and musing during moments of slack canvas, Martin Wells revels in the bizarre and beautiful from the forgotten seven-tenths of our planet. Take his squid's-eye view through the azure waters, find out how to garner the appreciation of an octopus, watch the democratic sea urchins and transsexual limpets. His epigrammatic tales, of the glowing brains of dead maniacs and growing genitalia of poisoned whelks, are brilliant in their simplicity, delightfully off-the-cuff, and occasionally off-the-wall. With such weird invertebrate realities, the planet suddenly doesn't seem so lonely. As Satchmo said, what a wonderful world." -- Adrian Desmond, author of Huxley : From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest and Darwin : The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist