THE MAN WHO FOUND THE MISSING LINK by Pat Shipman

THE MAN WHO FOUND THE MISSING LINK

Eugène Dubois’s Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right

KIRKUS REVIEW

An imaginative life of the controversial Dutch scientist (1858–1940) who discovered the first specimen of Homo erectus in Java in 1891.

Award-winning science writer Shipman (Taking Wing, 1998, etc.) has created an intimate, utterly convincing portrait of the long-misunderstood scientist who from his youth was obsessed with the notion of discovering the “missing link.” Employing the present tense throughout, Shipman (Anthropology/Pennsylvania State Univ.) achieves an immediacy that propels her text to its sobering conclusion, in which the aged, lonely scientist intransigently insists on his theories as anthropological research (many of whose techniques he pioneered) passes him by. The story begins in February 1937 when Dubois, living in virtual seclusion, receives a letter from a dear friend he has not seen in many years. The letter stimulates memories and sets off a lengthy flashback. During his youth in Holland, Dubois’s conventional, firmly Catholic family could not appreciate the genius of young Eugène, who even in boyhood maintained a strict schedule of study. He later married and was in the midst of a successful academic career in anatomy when discoveries of Neanderthal remains rekindled his youthful interest in human evolution. He joined the Dutch military as a physician and headed with his young family to Sumatra, then Java, where he eventually pursued his passion for fossil hunting full-time. Dubois mercilessly drove himself and his helpers, but eventually his persistence rewarded him with a skullcap, femur, and teeth from a specimen he believed belonged to the species he had sought so long. He spent much of the rest of his life struggling to convince his skeptical colleagues. Shipman invents many of Dubois’s conversations, emotions, and thoughts, but they all rest on her comprehensive, meticulous research.

Borrowing the techniques of an accomplished novelist for biographical purposes, Shipman brings to vivid life a character whose scientific work rivaled Galileo’s in its drama. (53 b&w illustrations, 7 maps)

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2001
ISBN: 0-684-85581-X
Page count: 492pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000




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