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Leonardo, Vol. 13, pp. 332-347. Pergamon Press, 1980. Printed in Great Britain. BOOKS Readers are invited to recommend books to be reviewed. In general, only books in English and in French can be reviewed at this stage. Those who would like to be added to Leonardo's panel of reviewers should write to the Founder-Editor, indicating their particular interests. The Biology of People. Sam Singer and Henry R. Hilgard. W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, 1978. 546 pp., illus. $16.50. Reviewed by F. H. C. Marriott* This is an excellent example of a US American popular science textbook. Generously produced and illustrated, it covers the evolution, anatomy and physiology and the genetics of humans. The style is close to that of the Scientific American, and most of the references and figures are from that journal. The coverage is wide, the standard of accuracy is extraordinarily high, and the writing, although flat and inelegant, is clear and precise. Inevitably in a book of this scope, the treatment is sometimes superficial. Scientific hypotheses are presented without the evidence on which they are based and often without much assessment of how securely they are founded. Many topics are simplified; it would be hard to guess from the brief treatment of blood groups just how complex serology and haematology have become. Some sections, such as those on respiration and digestion, are difficult to follow without a fair knowledge of biochemistry. Still, this is a popular book, and, on the whole, the authors have given a balanced, coherent and up-to-date survey of human biology. There is one notable omission. Perception and the special senses are seriously neglected. The senses of smell, taste, hearing and vision are covered in less than four pagescompared with a 28-page chapter on Immunity, and a 25-page chapter on The Reproductive System and Contraception. Pitch discrimination, speech production and colour vision are not even mentioned, though the genetic control of colour defect is discussed. Language, more than anything else, sets humans apart from the other animals, yet in a book devoted to human biology the organs used for forming and recognizing intelligible sounds are scarcely referred to. With this exception, the authors have succeeded well in a difficult and ambitious task. The whole picture of human evolution, relationships with the environment, the organization of the human body and the genetic code that controls development is presented in bold outline, yet with enough detail to indicate the complexity of the subject. For a secondary school leaver interested in studying biology or medicine at university level this would be an excellent introduction. Physics for Poets. Robert H. March. McGraw-Hill, New York, 1978. 287pp., illus. $35.00. Reviewed by Blake Morrison ** Not the least of this book's attractions is its intriguing title, which turns out to have several different implications. It makes clear, first of all, that this is a book for comparative beginners. Physics is to be taught in a way that will make it accessible even to poets, who are normally presumed to be "Dept. of Biomathematics, University of Oxford, Pusey St., Oxford OXI 2IZ, England. **34Mycenae Road, Blackheath, London, S.E.3, England. 332 lacking in the intellectual equipment necessary for an understanding of science. But the title also hints at possible similarities between physics and poetry. 'Physicists', March says, 'are not regular fellows-and neither are poets'. This, perhaps, is to enter the realms of caricature, the superstition that poets and physicists tend to be cranks having always been a popular one. But the author is on firmer ground when he suggests that poets and physicists have a similar end in view in their work. Poetry, as Keats wrote, concerns itself with 'beauty' and 'truth'; so, according to March, does physics: 'An idea must be more than right-it must also be pretty if it is to create much excitement in the world of physics.' Thus, Isaac Newton is described as seeking 'to preserve the uniqueness of his system, the beauty of a perfectly symmetric theory, by introducing the mass of the earth, at the time unmeasurable, as a variable in his theory .... Once again, as so many times before and since...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 332-333
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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