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Science History

Evolution by Association

A History of Symbiosis

by (author) Jan Sapp

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Jun 1995
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 1995
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In this comprehensive history of symbiosis theory--the first to be written--Jan Sapp masterfully traces its development from modest beginnings in the late nineteenth century to its current status as one of the key conceptual frameworks for the life sciences. The symbiotic perspective on evolution, which argues that "higher species" have evolved from a merger of two or more different kinds of organisms living together, is now clearly established with definitive molecular evidence demonstrating that mitochondria and chloroplasts have evolved from symbiotic bacteria. In telling the exciting story of an evolutionary biology tradition that has effectively challenged many key tenets of classical neo-Darwinism, Sapp sheds light on the phenomena, movements, doctrines, and controversies that have shaped attitudes about the scope and significance of symbiosis. Engaging and insightful, Evolution by Association will be avidly read by students and researchers across the life sciences.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Jan Sapp is a professor of Science Studies at York University, Canada. He is author of Beyond the Gene: Cytoplasmic Inheritance and the Struggle for Authority and Where the Truth Lies: Franz Moewus and the Origins of Molecular Biology.

Editorial Reviews

"Sapp provides some interesting thoughts on what could constitute acceptable 'proof' in biology with respect to 'origin stories,' which seek scientifically to describe nonrepeatable one-time events such as the emergence of eukaryotes in the Precambrian. We might add that this applies equally well to evolutionary and ecological phenomena, most of which are equally unsusceptible to repeatable experiments."--Douglas R. Weiner, Isis, v.87

"A thorough, balanced, and readable account of symbiosis research and theory from the 19th century to the present day . . .Sapp accomplishes the delicate task of providing a competent account of the research itself with its limitations and implications while placing it in the particularly rich broader context surrounding the subject of symbiosis and its potential role in evolution. . .A fine piece of scholarship, whole and satisfying in itself." --Science

"By situating the history of symbiosis with within the interstices of biological specialization, Sapp has written a compelling historical narrative that transcends disciplinary allegiances....required reading for all historians of twentieth-century life science." --Journal of the History of Biology

"Most of Sapp's book concentrates on the history of symbiotic theories of the eukaryotic cell, and this theme works well. His chapters that focus on this issue. . .highlight, somewhat unexpectedly, the contributions of Joshua Lederberg. . .I was intrigued by several of Sapp's sociological asides." --Bioscience

"The author has assembled a systematic history of this emerging field, in this engaging, wide-ranging account of the growth of an important biological idea." -- Ethology, Ecology and Evolution

"Symbiosis is still not taught as a central principle of biological evolution on a par with Darwinian theory and the neo-Mendelian synthesis of heredity. With extraordinary erudition, insight, and clarity of exposition, Sapp's work is a synthesis of history, philosophy, and biology that should go a long way towards repairing this hiatus in the history of ideas." --Joshua Lederberg, University Professor, The Rockefeller University

"Many popular studies in the history of science describe events that have either been completed or are past their peak. Sapp's book is not only a scholarly account of one of the most important, yet neglected, areas of 20th-century biology, but it may also be pointing the way to a major element of biology in the next millennium." --New Scientist

"This book. . .skillfully weaves history, politics, egos, indisputable facts, and vigorously disputed interpretations of those facts into a cohesive story. . .It will convince readers of the need for goos libraries, good reviews of the old literature, and a good sense of history no matter how fresh the ideas." --Choice

"Overall, the book is a delightful historical complement to the available texts describing symbiotic associations and a scholarly overview of the conceptual aspects of the subject. It will be enjoyed both by symbiologists and by those interested in the history of biological thought." --Nature

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