Book review: ‘The Flamingo’s Smile’ by Stephen Jay Gould

Reflections in natural history.

Reflections in natural history.

The Flamingo’s Smile

The fourth of Stephen Jay Gould’s long-running series of popular science essay collections that first appeared in his monthly column in Natural History magazine, The Flamingo’s Smile covers topics which include:

  • the unusual structure of flamingoes’ beaks;
  • the mating habits of praying mantises;
  • animals that change sex;
  • conjoined twins;
  • the Portuguese man-of-war;
  • weird attempts to reconcile geological and biblical timescales and events;
  • Lord Kelvin’s calculations of the age of the earth;
  • the Kinsey Reports;
  • baseball statistics;
  • Ediacaran and other fossils;
  • the Great Chain of Being;
  • the Hottentot Venus;
  • eugenics;
  • Darwin’s poor record-keeping in the Galápagos Islands;
  • corn;
  • the search for extraterrestrial intelligence;
  • extinction events.

As with all of Gould’s essay collections, this is a fantastic book, although I wouldn't classify it amongst my particular favourites. But highly recommended, nevertheless.

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks

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