Origins: The Search for Our Prehistoric Past

Author(s): Frank H. T. Rhodes


"Fossils are the fragments from which, piece by laborious piece, the great mosaic of the history of life has been constructed. Here and there, we can supplement these meager scraps by the use of biochemical markers or geochemical signatures that add useful information, but, even with such additional help, our reconstructions and our models of descent are often tentative. For the fossil record is, as we have seen, as biased as it is incomplete. But fragmentary, selective, and biased though it is, the fossil record, with all its imperfections, is still a treasure. Though whole chapters are missing, many pages lost, and the earliest pages so damaged as to be, as yet, virtually unreadable, this-the greatest biography of all-is one in whose closing pages we find ourselves."-from Origins In Origins, Frank H. T. Rhodes explores the origin and evolution of living things, the changing environments in which they have developed, and the challenges we now face on an increasingly crowded and polluted planet.
Rhodes argues that the future well-being of our burgeoning population depends in no small part on our understanding of life's past, its long and slow development, and its intricate interdependencies. Rhodes's accessible and extensively illustrated treatment of the origins narrative describes the nature of the search for prehistoric life, the significance of geologic time, the origin of life, the emergence and spread of flora and fauna, the evolution of primates, and the emergence of modern humans.


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"In this compact and elegant volume, Frank H. T. Rhodes does far more than beautifully updating his classic 1962 book The Evolution of Life. He provides a new narrative of the history of life on Earth for a new set of generations. He covers familiar territory with a fresh and lyrical prose that reveals new insights into both species past and present and the people who have studied them. This is a perfect introduction by a virtuoso."-Warren D. Allmon, Director, Paleontological Research Institution "In Origins, an overview of the history of life on Earth for the nonspecialist reader, Frank H. T. Rhodes starts with origins and traces a winding path to human evolution. This book is a highly readable treatment of an important and interesting topic."-Michael Foote, University of Chicago

Frank H. T. Rhodes is President Emeritus of Cornell University. A geologist by training, his numerous published works on geology and education include the books Origins: The Search for Our Prehistoric Past, Earth: A Tenant's Manual,The Creation of the Future: The Role of the American University, all from Cornell, The Evolution of Life, and Language of the Earth. He holds the Bigsby Medal of the Geological Society, the Ian Campbell Medal of the American Geological Institute, and the Clark-Kerr Medal of the University of California-Berkeley. He holds more than thirty honorary degrees from universities both in the United States and abroad.

General Fields

  • : 9781501702440
  • : Cornell University Press
  • : Comstock Publishing Associates
  • : 0.028
  • : October 2016
  • : August 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Frank H. T. Rhodes
  • : Hardback
  • : English
  • : 336
  • : 77, 69 black white halftones, 1 black white line drawings, 1 maps, 4 black white tables, 2 charts