An Excerpt from Theodore W. Pietsch’s Trees of Life

The Johns Hopkins Press Blog has included an excerpt from Theodore W. Pietsch’s Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution. Trees of Life is book about the tree diagrams created to illustrate evolution and the relationship between various organism. We have all seen these visual representations. These trees help convey fairly difficult concepts in a remarkably coherent and understandable way. Pietsch’s book crosses disciplinary lines between science, history of science, biology and intellectual history. The excerpt is from Pietsch’s preface.

Johns Hopkins University Press Blog

Our occasional Friday series on the blog, The Press Reads, features short excerpts from recent JHUP books. We hope to whet your appetite and inspire additions to your reading list.  Today’s selection is drawn from the preface ofTrees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution by Theodore W. Pietsch. Trees of Life, embraced by reviewers across many disciplines, is now available in trade paperback.

Ernst Haeckel's family tree of the mammals, from 1866. Ernst Haeckel’s family tree of the mammals, from 1866.

This is a book about  trees—not the transpiring, photosynthesizing kind, but tree-like branching diagrams that attempt to show the interrelationships of organisms, from viruses and bacteria to birds and mammals, both living and fossil. It is not intended as a treatise about the philosophy or science behind tree construction, nor is it a defense or refutation of the various relationships depicted among organisms. It is rather a celebration of the manifest beauty, intrinsic interest, and human…

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