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The First Human jacket

Reviews of The First Human

"An engrossing, fast-paced read, her story unfolds in many remote and rugged locales, from the Middle Awash of Ethiopia to the Tugen Hills of Kenya and the Djurab Desert of Chad. Gibbons tells of hard-driven, dedicated teams contending with extreme heat, blowing sand, illness and other hazards of fieldwork in Africa, where success demands years, or decades, of persistence."Scientific American

One of the top five books. "Ann is the correspondent for Science magazine who covers this field, so she is extremely knowledgeable and very much up to date. ... she covered not only our work but the work of many other people. So this gives the reader the most up-to-date knowledge of how modern paleoanthropology is done. And it gives you a sense of the personalities involved and the breadth of science...." — Paleoanthropologist Tim White, interviewed for The Browser web site, October 2011

"From the outside, the science of paleoanthropology often looks like a swamp of ego, paranoia, possessiveness, and intellectual mercantilism. This view describes no more than the visible tip of a very large and profoundly fascinating iceberg; but there is more of a grain of truth in it nonetheless, as Ann Gibbons shows in an absorbing tale of discovery dominated by a handful of difficult and quirky characters worthy of a Gothic novel. If you want some insight into the human story behind current takes on the saga of our remotest origins, start here." — Ian Tattersall, author of Becoming Human

"The past decade has seen a series of astonishing discoveries about our distant ancestors, but it has not seen a book that does justice to them until now. The First Human is a marvelous narrative of science and scientists, simultaneously exciting and authoritative. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand where we come from and how we know it." — Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh and Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins

"Gibbons deftly weaves together the research and the human story. She conveys a very real--and uniquely objective--sense of the infighting that plagues paleoanthropology. Indeed, her account of these rivalries is likely to elicit squirms of regret among her sources for exposing the discipline's dark side. While the science alone is compelling enough to carry the book, Gibbons rightly notes in her acknowledgements that it would be impossible to separate the personal politics from the research results. "The science lurches forward," she observes, "despite the foibles of the individual scientists."Archeology

"With great flair (and a real gift for explaining a somewhat dusty science), Ann Gibbons recounts a recent tale of four research teams in The First Human — each with its share of gigantic brains, egos, and competitive drive — locked in a thrilling race to establish nothing less than the dawn of humankindEntertainment Weekly

Science’s evolution reporter traces the search for, and fractious debates over, the origins of humankind, from 1868 to 2005. Gibbons propels her narrative with the frenetic pacing of a thriller, full of ruthless competition, jumped claims, armed guards and one rescinded apology. It all climaxes with a debate in Paris at which Tim White declared: “This is not about science! This is about theater!”Seed

"... Gibbons explains what paleoanthropologists have been doing over the past 15 years: competing, feuding, and making dramatic discoveries. Anchoring her narrative to the anatomy that is the foundation of physical anthropology, Gibbons intentionally emphasizes the personalities involved. Leakeyesque fame is one unspoken prize in field research on human origins, and several scientists acknowledge here their youthful inspiration by Louis and Mary Leakey's careers. One was Don Johanson, celebrated for the "Lucy" fossil discovered in 1974 that reigned temporarily as the oldest human ancestor. From the state of scientific affairs at that time, Gibbons' narrative drives forward the hunt since 1990 for a hominid ancestral to Lucy. Amid the particulars of newly excavated fossils, which include a spectacular skull from Chad that provisionally is the oldest human progenitor at six or seven million years old, Gibbons pointedly dramatizes the field's territorial attitudes toward fossils. Science in the flesh is ever popular, and Gibbons' successful debut marks her as a writer to watch."Booklist

"Gibbons has been a commentator on human evolution research at Science magazine for over a decade. In that role, she has had unique access to the personalities and career fortunes of those intriguing hominids, the paleoanthropologists.... Through her interviews and reporting on scientific developments, Gibbons gives all parties an airing of their various interpretations of events and evidence. The captivating result is a near insider's account that still has the critical distance a nonpartisan can offer. Strongly recommended for public and university libraries."Library Journal

"A deft account — part detective story, part adventure tale — of recent breakthroughs in the search for human origins.
Gibbons, Science magazine's primary reporter on evolution, frames her narrative around four prominent research teams responsible for discovering the oldest known examples of early humans (it is believed that African apes came down from the trees and began to walk some five to eight million years ago).... Gibbons provides inspiring portraits of genius laced with the nitty-gritty of mortal foible, all informed by firsthand accounts, interviews and research. While acknowledging a 2004 Gallup poll demonstrating that 45 percent of Americans believe "God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago," Gibbons provides for everyone else an evocative examination of what we know about where, when and why our species arose--indeed, what first made us human.
Expert science reportage larded with an unexpected dose of intrigue."Kirkus Reviews

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Ann Gibbons--Author of The First Human

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