Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales

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9780691128504: Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales

John Tyler Bonner, one of our most distinguished and creative biologists, here offers a completely new perspective on the role of size in biology. In his hallmark friendly style, he explores the universal impact of being the right size. By examining stories ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Gulliver's Travels, he shows that humans have always been fascinated by things big and small. Why then does size always reside on the fringes of science and never on the center stage? Why do biologists and others ponder size only when studying something else--running speed, life span, or metabolism?



Why Size Matters, a pioneering book of big ideas in a compact size, gives size its due by presenting a profound yet lucid overview of what we know about its role in the living world. Bonner argues that size really does matter--that it is the supreme and universal determinant of what any organism can be and do. For example, because tiny creatures are subject primarily to forces of cohesion and larger beasts to gravity, a fly can easily walk up a wall, something we humans cannot even begin to imagine doing.


Bonner introduces us to size through the giants and dwarfs of human, animal, and plant history and then explores questions including the physics of size as it affects biology, the evolution of size over geological time, and the role of size in the function and longevity of living things.


As this elegantly written book shows, size affects life in its every aspect. It is a universal frame from which nothing escapes.

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From the Inside Flap:


"John Tyler Bonner's career in biology has been long, happy, and just a little larger than life. For more than sixty years, the invisible world he explores through the microscope has led him to big ideas about the nature of things. This tiny book is their summation. As you read it, the light on the stage of the microscope expands and expands until virtually everything is illuminated. In fact, after reading Why Size Matters, you may conclude that this book is the one and only place where size does not matter."--Jonathan Weiner, author of The Beak of the Finch and His Brother's Keeper


"John Tyler Bonner's latest book is a masterly summary of more than fifty years of thinking about why organisms are the size they are, and it is presented in the elegant prose we have come to expect from him. The theme is lucidly set out, developed using clear examples, and illustrated with drawings and graphs that enhance the text and his explanations of topics."--Brian K. Hall, Dalhousie University


"Why Size Matters has the usual spontaneity and insight of a book by John Tyler Bonner. It is full of interesting facts and ideas, and is fun to read-the next best thing to a conversation with the author himself. Bonner approaches the complex subject of size in biology with unabashed enthusiasm. He combines a literary flair with scientific sophistication to explain why dimension and scale so profoundly affect individual behavior and organic evolution."--Mary Jane West-Eberhard, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


About the Author:

John Tyler Bonner is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. He is the author of "Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science" and "Evolution of Culture in Animals" (Princeton), and the author or editor of fourteen other books.

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John Tyler Bonner
Published by Princeton University Press (2006)
ISBN 10: 0691128502 ISBN 13: 9780691128504
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Bonner, John Tyler
Published by Princeton University Press (2006)
ISBN 10: 0691128502 ISBN 13: 9780691128504
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