OUR LIVING PAST by Lilian Gould


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The story of man's evolution from the beginning of the earth to the present in under 200 pages has to be a highly selective effort; this attempt is partially successful in its emphases, often ambiguous in its phrasing. The author notes such influences as the process of photosynthesis, the development of reproductive organs and bony parts, amphibious movement, and the flowering of cereals; in addition, prehensile parts, stereoscopic vision, upright posture, proportionate brain expansion and other easily perceived factors are emphasized while the complexities of dentition patterns and blood chemistry are more briefly acknowledged. Sometimes controversial hypotheses (the moon originating in the Pacific basin) are so-indicated but usually a particular theory is preferred (and not identified). The hint of a phylogenetic trellis of human origins (i.e. man as a polytypic species) is too vague to make an impact and the evolutionary chart misrepresents a direct line from Peking and Java man to Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon to Modern man. Some of the assertions are misleading: e.g. ""There are only a hundred and eighty bones in a human body"" does not add that the skull bones are not included in that ""body"" count. Lehrman's The Long Road to Man, even after ten years, and Gregor's The Adventures of Man are more precise and discriminating approaches, and just as readable.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1969
Publisher: Lippincott