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Luminous Fish

Tales of Science and Love

This collection of linked stories by internationally renowned evolutionist Lynn Margulis reveals science from the inside--its thrills, disappointments, and triumphs. A largely fictional account, it draws on her decades of experience to portray the poor judgment, exhaustion, and life-threatening dedication of real scientists--their emotional preoccupations, sexual distractions, and passions for research. The esoteric, demanding, sometimes exhilarating world of science emerges from the shadows of its passive narrative into the sunlight of the personal voice of those who attempt to wrench secrets directly from nature. All of us who struggle to balance family, professional, and social commitments with intellectual quest will be intrigued by the humanity of these tales.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"A real encounter between a young Lynn Margulis and J. Robert Oppenheimer and his family complements four gently linked stories. I think of a multidimensional tango, of men and women to be sure, but also of two less predictable partners--love and science. Margulis' first fiction is as intriguing as her research in evolution!"--Roald Hoffmann, winner, Nobel Prize in Chemistry

"Difficult artists and writers are plentiful in fiction, but Lynn Margulis has a unique and vivid gift for portraying work-driven scientists and their mystified, vexed, or frustrated mates and friends. And lurking just behind these highly emotional stories lies the great scientific story (in which Margulis was herself a central participant) of how science reluctantly came to understand that our planet's atmosphere is a biological phenomenon."--Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

"On transatlantic overnight flights, I often hope the book I've chosen will quickly put me to sleep. Not so with Luminous Fish, which pleasantly kept me awake much of the night. Lynn Margulis has penned a delightful collection of essays of real scientists going about their all-too ordinary lives at work and play. Seldom has the subjective side of science been captured better, nor surprisingly so as Lynn herself very much lives the life of some of those profiled within. A penetrating, realistic work of science and passion if there ever was one."--Eric Chaisson, Wright Center for Science Education, Tufts University

"In the public eye, talented scientists are usually seen to be single-minded individuals who obsessively dedicate their entire lives to the dispassionate elucidation of arcane and complex issues. The emotional distractions which afflict the lives of ordinary beings seem lacking. Lynn Margulis' book exposes the reality of the passions, sexual and other desires which underlie and drive the lives of men and women scientists. This is done through four delightful, linked pieces of fiction spiced with a concluding personal memoir of some very real people. This enjoyable, original and unique book also reflects its unusual title. Luminous fish give flashes of illumination on to their prey by alternately exposing and hiding their radiant tissue (which is packed with symbiotic, luminescent bacteria). In a similar fashion, Lynn Margulis gives brilliant glimpses of the public and private lives of her characters, and their emotional interactions with each other. An excellent, fascinating and very readable portrayal of men and women scientists as the normal human beings they really are!"--Sir David Smith, Fellow and former Biological Secretary, Royal Society of London

"Science is often viewed as the cold, objective study of nature. Lynn Margulis shows us that this pursuit is often strongly and wonderfully influenced by the human touch. Luminous Fish is a fascinating read."--Margaret McFall-Ngai, Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin

"[Luminous Fish is] unadulterated Lynn Margulis, fascinating and fun all the way as you follow her characters--real and fictionalized--through the challenges and turmoils of life. Great reading!"--J. Woodland Hastings, Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Natural Sciences, Harvard University

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis

Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) who served as a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, received the 1999 National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton. She was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences starting in 1983 and of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences from 1997 forward. Author, editor, or coauthor of chapters in more than forty books, she published or had her work profiled in many journals, magazines, and books, among them Natural History, Science, Nature, New England Watershed, Scientific American, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Firsts, and The Scientific 100. She made numerous contributions to the primary scientific literature of microbial evolution and cell biology.

Margulis's theory of species evolution by symbiogenesis, put forth in Acquiring Genomes (co-authored with Dorion Sagan, 2002), describes how speciation does not occur by random mutation alone but rather by symbiotic détente. Behavioral, chemical, and other interactions often lead to integration among organisms, members of different taxa. In well-documented cases some mergers create new species. Intimacy, physical contact of strangers, becomes part of the engine of life's evolution that accelerates the process of change. Margulis worked in the laboratory and field with many other scientists and students to show how specific ancient partnerships, in a given order over a billion years, generated the cells of the species we see with our unaided eyes. The fossil record, in fact, does not show Darwin's predicted gradual changes between closely related species but rather the "punctuated equilibrium" pattern described by Eldredge and Gould: a jump from one to a different species.

She worked on the "revolution in evolution" since she was a graduate student. In the last fifteen years of her life, Margulis co-authored several books with Dorion Sagan, among them What is Sex? (1997), What is Life? (1995), Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality (1991), Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors (1986), and Origins of Sex:Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination (1986).

Her work with K.V. Schwartz provided a consistent formal classification of all life on Earth and has lead to the third edition of Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (1998). Their classification scheme was generated from scientific results of myriad colleagues and its logical-genealogical basis is summarized in her single-authored book Symbiosis in Cell Evolution: Microbial Communities in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons (second edition, 1993). The bacterial origins of both chloroplasts and mitochondria are now well established.

Since the mid-1970s, Margulis aided James E. Lovelock, FRS, in documenting his Gaia Theory, which posits that the Earth's surface interactions among living beings, rocks and soil, air and water have created a vast, self-regulating system. From the vantage of outer space the Earth looks like an amazing being; from the vantage of biochemistry it behaves in many ways like a giant organism.

Luminous Fish

Pages:192 pages
Size: 5.25 x 8 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781933392332
Pub. Date March 07, 2007

Available In/Retail Price

Hardcover, 192 pages, $21.95