At last there is a scientific work that justifies the term natural philosophy. In every discipline there should eventually come a time when it is possible to repeat the words of a great historic occasion in America: the man and the hour are met. Such events are increasingly rare in the sciences, where specialization and barbarity of style almost preclude the broad and humane synthesis that indicates a discipline has come of age. Impossible as it may seem, Ernst Mayr has written such a book on the history of biology in which the main issues are confronted and discussed with such lucidity that no interested reader can fail to follow the argument.
As one of the founders of the neo-Darwinist synthesis, Mayr is among the few living men who can speak with some authority on the development of biological thought. Despite his strong convictions on the usual topics of evolutionary thought, Mayr is generous to the various losing parties and draws our attention time after time to contributions made by vitalists, antievolutionists, and advocates of orthogenesis (the idea that evolution proceeds in some special direction). It is not that Mayr lacks a point of view—far from it. He has made up his mind on every conceivable issue in the biological sciences, but it is just that strength and clarity of his convictions that makes this book the best thing on the subject and, what is more, an excellent introduction to biology. It is a work that should be read by anyone who has even the slightest interest in the most important intellectual revolution in more than a century.
[The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance, by Ernst Mayr; Belknap Press of Harvard University; Cambridge]