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)


One-Straw Revolutionary

One-Straw Revolutionary

By Larry Korn

One-Straw Revolutionary represents the first commentary on the work of the late Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka (1913 – 2008), widely considered to be natural farming’s most influential practitioner. Mr. Fukuoka is perhaps most known for his bestselling book The One-Straw Revolution (1978), a manifesto on the importance of no-till agriculture, which was at the time of publication a radical challenge to the global systems that supply the world’s food, and still inspires readers today. Larry Korn, who apprenticed with Mr. Fukuoka in Japan at the time, translated the manuscript and brought it to the United States, knowing it would change the conversation about food forever. The One-Straw Revolution, edited by Korn and Wendell Berry, was an immediate international success, and established Mr. Fukuoka as a leading voice in the fight against conventional industrial agriculture. In this new book, through his own personal narrative, Larry Korn distills his experience of more than thirty-five years of study with Mr. Fukuoka, living and working on his farm on Shikoku Island, and traveling with Mr. Fukuoka to the United States on two six-week visits. 

One-Straw Revolutionary is the first book to look deeply at natural farming and intimately discuss the philosophy and work of Mr. Fukuoka. In addition to giving his personal thoughts about natural farming, Korn broadens the discussion by pointing out natural farming’s kinship with the ways of indigenous cultures and traditional Japanese farming. At the same time, he clearly distinguishes natural farming from other forms of agriculture, including scientific and organic agriculture and permaculture. Korn also clarifies commonly held misconceptions about natural farming in ways Western readers can readily understand. And he explains how natural farming can be used practically in areas other than agriculture, including personal growth and development.

The book follows the author on his travels from one back-to-the-land commune to another in the countryside of 1970s Japan, a journey that eventually led him to Mr. Fukuoka’s natural farm.  Korn’s description of his time there, as well as traveling with Mr. Fukuoka during his visits to the United States, offers a rare, inside look at Mr. Fukuoka’s life. Readers will delight in this personal insight into one of the world’s leading agricultural thinkers.

Available in: Paperback

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Angels by the River

Angels by the River

By James Gustave Speth

Angels by the River follows James Gustave Speth’s unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism.

In this compelling memoir, Speth explores the issues, and realities, that have shaped the nation since the 1950s, and that turned an “ultimate insider” into someone willing to be arrested in front of the White House.

Born and raised in a town where both the best and worst of the South shone through—a town that eventually became the scene of South Carolina’s horrific Orangeburg Massacre—Speth explores how the civil rights movement and the South’s agrarian roots influenced his academic career at Yale and later work in the heyday of the environmental movement, when he helped launch two landmark and influential environmental groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute—advise the White House on climate and other emerging issues, and lead the UN’s development efforts around the globe.

Speth fought to create and uphold the nation’s toughest environmental laws, but now believes a new environmentalism is needed to confront today’s challenges. The advancing climate crisis cannot be addressed, he warns, as long as we remain fixated on endless growth and consumption, corporate profits, increasing the incomes of the well-to-do, neglecting those just getting by, and helping abroad only modestly.

An American tale, in all its complexity, Speth’s memoir is an inspiration—especially for readers contemplating how to make a difference in an increasingly complex world.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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Angels by the River

James Gustave Speth

Hardcover $25.00

Good Morning, Beautiful Business

Good Morning, Beautiful Business

By Judy Wicks

It's not often that someone stumbles into entrepreneurship and ends up reviving a community and starting a national economic-reform movement. But that's what happened when, in 1983, Judy Wicks founded the White Dog Café on the first floor of her house on a row of Victorian brownstones in West Philadelphia. After helping to save her block from demolition, Judy grew what began as a tiny muffin shop into a 200-seat restaurant-one of the first to feature local, organic, and humane food. The restaurant blossomed into a regional hub for community, and a national powerhouse for modeling socially responsible business.

Good Morning, Beautiful Business is a memoir about the evolution of an entrepreneur who would not only change her neighborhood, but would also change her world-helping communities far and wide create local living economies that value people and place as much as commerce and that make communities not just interesting and diverse and prosperous, but also resilient.

Wicks recounts a girlhood coming of age in the sixties, a stint working in an Alaska Eskimo village in the seventies, her experience cofounding the first Free People store, her accidental entry into the world of restauranteering, the emergence of the celebrated White Dog Café, and her eventual role as an international leader and speaker in the local-living-economies movement.

Her memoir traces the roots of her career - exploring what it takes to marry social change and commerce, and do business differently. Passionate, fun, and inspirational, Good Morning, Beautiful Business explores the way women, and men, can follow both mind and heart, do what's right, and do well by doing good.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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Good Morning, Beautiful Business

Judy Wicks

Paperback $17.95

Flying Blind

Flying Blind

By Don Mitchell

When Middlebury writing professor Don Mitchell was approached by a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department about tracking endangered Indiana bats on his 150-acre farm in Vermont's picturesque Champlain Valley, Mitchell's relationship with bats—and with government—could be characterized as distrustful, at best.

But the flying rats, as Mitchell initially thinks of them, launched him on a series of "improvements" to his land that would provide a more welcoming habitat for the bats—and a modest tax break for himself and his family. Whether persuading his neighbors to join him on a "silent meditation," pulling invasive garlic mustard out of the ground by hand, navigating the tacit ground rules of buying an ATV off Craigslist, or leaving just enough honeysuckle to give government inspectors "something to find," Mitchell’s tale is as profound as it is funny—a journey that changes Mitchell’s relationship with Chiroptera, the land, and, ultimately, his understanding of his own past.

Ruminating on the nature of authority, the purview of the state, and the value of inhabiting one’s niche—Mitchell reveals much about our inner and outer landscape, in this perfectly paced and skilled story of place.

Available in: Hardcover

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Flying Blind

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Hardcover $24.95