Chelsea Green Publishing

Lynn Margulis

Pages:216 pages
Book Art:Color illustrations
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603584463
Pub. Date October 19, 2012

Lynn Margulis

The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel

Edited by Dorion Sagan

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 19, 2012


Tireless, controversial, and hugely inspirational to those who knew her or encountered her work, Lynn Margulis was a scientist whose intellectual energy and interests knew no bounds. Best known for her work on the origins of eukaryotic cells, the Gaia hypothesis, and symbiogenesis as a driving force in evolution, her work has forever changed the way we understand life on Earth.

When Margulis passed away in 2011, she left behind a groundbreaking scientific legacy that spanned decades. In this collection, Dorion Sagan, Margulis's son and longtime collaborator, gathers together the voices of friends and colleagues to remark on her life and legacy, in essays that cover her early collaboration with James Lovelock, her fearless face-off with Richard Dawkins during the so-called "Battle of Balliol" at Oxford, the intrepid application of her scientific mind to the insistence that 9/11 was a false-flag operation, her affinity for Emily Dickinson, and more.

Margulis was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983, received the prestigious National Medal of Science in 1999, and her papers are permanently archived at the Library of Congress. Less than a month before her untimely death, Margulis was named one of the twenty most influential scientists alive - one of only two women on this list, which include such scientists as Stephen Hawking, James Watson, and Jane Goodall.


“I hope that in due time she will be recognized as one of the greatest scientific thinkers of our time.”--Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

“Although she could be a bulldog, her heart was soft and her spirit loving beneath the scientific realpolitik of her conversation and the insistent tough-mindedness of her sometimes strident and blunt, withering and refreshingly unadorned opinions.”--Dorion Sagan, from the introduction

“It’s the ideas that really matter—and Lynn certainly had hers. They were novel and profound, and she simply wanted all the rest of the world to adjust their thinking to accommodate and embrace what she saw were the simple, beautiful truths that she had uncovered.”--Dr. Niles Eldredge, contributor, and author of Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life

"I can't imagine what the world of biological science in the twentieth century would have been had Lynn Margulis not come along. In this volume, we can read about some of the vast range of intellect she influenced."--Wes Jackson, president, The Land Institute

“Lynn and I often argued, as good collaborators should, and we wrangled over the intricate finer points of self-regulation, but always remained good friends, perhaps because we were confident that we were right.”--Dr. James Lovelock, contributor, and author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia

“It was life—profligate, teeming life in all its weirdness—that held the magic for her, not this featherless biped with its confused aspirations. Lynn intuited and doggedly gathered evidence to show that most anything we two-leggeds take special pride in—our capacities for cogitation, conviviality, and culture—had been invented, eons before, by the microbial entities that compose us.”--David Abram, contributor, and author of Spell of the Sensuous

ForeWord Reviews-
Best known for her work on the origins of eukaryotic cells, symbiogenesis as a force in evolution, and the Gaia hypothesis, Lynn Margulis was a scientist whose lively spirit and frank opinions left behind an enduring legacy that’s well worth remembering.  When she died after a stroke in 2011, obituaries emphasized her ability to turn complicated scientific concepts into mainstream discussions, and even after she married famous cosmologist Carl Sagan, her own star was just as bright.  In this thoughtful and expertly curated collection, Margulis’s son and long-time collaborator, Dorion Sagan, calls her “indomitable Lynn.” A fearless and zealous advocate of her theories who could also display a loving heart, he writes, “[H]er threat was not to people but to the evil done to the spirit by the entrenchment of unsupported views.”  In other essays, Margulis’s complex personality beguiles, frustrates, charms, and elevates various writers, resulting in a stunning portrait that no single remembrance could have captured.

Luminaries throughout the scientific world share their memories of her bulldog attitude and scientific contributions, showing that although she’s gone, her work definitely still resonates and informs evolutionary biology and other fields.  Jorge Wagensberg, a physicist and professor from the University of Barcelona, calls Margulis “biology’s greatest heroine,” while astrobiologist Penny Boston recalls the scientist’s ability to be like an “earth mother” who was encouraging and friendly.  Other contributors share stories about traipsing with her through marshes on Cape Cod talking about biology, or calling Margulis in the middle of the night with sudden scientific insight (only to have her gently say, “Okay. Now go back to sleep”). There are several of her students who recall her tenacity and ferocious curiosity, two attributes that drove them toward deepening their own research. 

The collection is organized chronologically, grouping together essays about her early days as a scientist and following with her establishment in the scientific community, her work as a “modern-day Copernicus,” and her role as a teacher, neighbor, and friend. The photographs included in the volume are also perfectly chosen, with every image showing her forceful personality, relentless focus, and often-captivating smile.  Taken as a whole, Sagan’s collection is a fitting tribute to a woman whose life and legacy have touched so many others. As he notes, her indomitable spirit lives on through her children, grandchildren, colleagues, and students—and most of all, through the work that she championed so well.

Publishers Weekly-
There are two kinds of great scientists, writes former American Society of Microbiology president Moselio Schaechter in this eclectic, sometimes electrifying, book about biologist Lynn Margulis. There are those making "impressive experiments" and those making "groundbreaking theoretical syntheses." Margulis was the latter, notes Schaechter. Margulis fiercely championed evolutionary symbiogenesis, the merging of distinct organisms to form new organisms in swift, un-Darwinian leaps. Margulis was eventually proven right in some life forms. But her insistence that most evolution involves symbiogenesis led to a lifetime of debate. It also leads to some inspired writing in this book of essays, edited by Sagan, her son and cowriter (Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the nature of Nature). "A dangerous liaison" is what Margulis felt drove species creation, writes Oxford paleobiologist Martin Brasier in one of the best essays. "A symbiosis between two distantly related organisms that wantonly swapped their genetic information to form completely new genetic strains." Some writing here reflects the idea that life is not a hierarchical tree, but a web, and embraces aspects of the controversial "Gaia" earth model which may put [off] Traditional Darwinian scientists. But this is a captivating read for anyone interested in what powers great scientists.


  • Winner - ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year, Bronze Winner (Biography)




By Alan Weisman

Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.

In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”

Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade.

Available in: Paperback

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Alan Weisman

Paperback $16.95

An Unlikely Vineyard

An Unlikely Vineyard

By Deirdre Heekin

Named one of the Best Wine Books of 2014 by The New York Times, An Unlikely Vineyard tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin’s farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment.

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its terroir, its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?

That’s what Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases. As Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for The New York Times, writes, “I love this book, which conveys beautifully why the best wine is, at heart, an agricultural expression.”

Challenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Deirdre and Caleb set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant. They wanted to create, or rediscover, a sense of place, and to grow food naturally using the philosophy and techniques gleaned from organic gardening, permaculture, and biodynamic farming.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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An Unlikely Vineyard

Deirdre Heekin, Alice Feiring

Hardcover $35.00

Growing, Older

Growing, Older

By Joan Dye Gussow

Michael Pollan calls her one of his food heroes. Barbara Kingsolver credits her with shaping the history and politics of food in the United States. And countless others who have vied for a food revolution, pushed organics, and reawakened Americans to growing their own food and eating locally consider her both teacher and muse.Joan Gussow has influenced thousands through her books, This Organic Life and The Feeding Web, her lectures, and the simple fact that she lives what she preaches. Now in her eighties, she stops once more to pass along some wisdom-surprising, inspiring, and controversial-via the pen.

Gussow's memoir Growing, Older begins when she loses her husband of 40 years to cancer and, two weeks later, finds herself skipping down the street-much to her alarm. Why wasn't she grieving in all the normal ways? With humor and wit, she explains how she stopped worrying about why she was smiling and went on worrying, instead, and as she always has, about the possibility that the world around her was headed off a cliff. But hers is not a tale, or message, of gloom. Rather it is an affirmation of a life's work-and work in general.

Lacking a partner's assistance, Gussow continued the hard labor of growing her own year-round diet. She dealt single-handedly with a rising tidal river that regularly drowned her garden, with muskrat interlopers, broken appliances, bodily decay, and river trash-all the while bucking popular notions of how "an elderly widowed woman" ought to behave.

Scattered throughout are urgent suggestions about what growing older on a changing planet will call on all of us to do: learn self-reliance and self-restraint, yield graciously if not always happily to necessity, and-since there is no other choice-come to terms with the insistencies of the natural world. Gussow delivers another literary gem-one that women curious about aging, gardeners curious about contending with increasingly intense weather, or environmentalists curious about the future will embrace.

Available in: Paperback

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Growing, Older

Joan Dye Gussow

Paperback $17.95

Paradise Lot

Paradise Lot

By Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates

When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates moved into a duplex in a run-down part of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the tenth-of-an-acre lot was barren ground and bad soil, peppered with broken pieces of concrete, asphalt, and brick. The two friends got to work designing what would become not just another urban farm, but a "permaculture paradise" replete with perennial broccoli, paw paws, bananas, and moringa—all told, more than two hundred low-maintenance edible plants in an innovative food forest on a small city lot. The garden—intended to function like a natural ecosystem with the plants themselves providing most of the garden's needs for fertility, pest control, and weed suppression—also features an edible water garden, a year-round unheated greenhouse, tropical crops, urban poultry, and even silkworms.

In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process. Packed full of detailed, useful information about designing a highly productive permaculture garden, Paradise Lot is also a funny and charming story of two single guys, both plant nerds, with a wild plan: to realize the garden of their dreams and meet women to share it with. Amazingly, on both counts, they succeed.

Available in: Paperback

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Paradise Lot

Eric Toensmeier, Jonathan Bates

Paperback $19.95