This first volume begins with Eiseleyâs debut collection, which displays his far-reaching knowledge and boundless curiosity about the mysteries of the natural world. Here are vivid accounts of prehistoric ecosystems, the origins of consciousness, the search for âliving fossilsâ at the bottom of the sea, and the complexities of our evolutionary inheritance. Here too are literary qualities and aspirations that led many to hail Eiseley as a âmodern Thoreauâ: his quest for the ultimate meanings and cosmological significance of natural phenomena, along with his immense expressive gifts.Â
The Firmament of Time (1960), a lyrical and meditative tour de force, looks back at the many ways in which the sciences have been shaped by the changing cultures in which they developed. Examining the role of metaphor in scientific thought, anticipations of scientific discoveries in the works of poets and novelists, and the âunconscious conformityâ of scientific theory to prevailing orthodoxies, Eiseley argues provocatively for the ongoing relevance to scientific progress of dreams, the imagination, and the irrational.
In his wide-ranging collection The Unexpected Universe (1969), Eiseley turns to the theme of the voyage of discovery: accounts of the mythical and historic journeys ofÂ Odysseus, Captain Cook, and Darwin frame his own more modest wanderings in the environs of Philadelphia. Sometimes he travels no farther than the local dump: and yet, like Homerâs hero or these great explorers, he continually finds a universe ânot only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.âÂ
As an added feature, this volume presents a selection of Eiseleyâs uncollected prose, including early autobiographical sketches, vivid and haunting entries from his private notebooks, and his 1957 lecture âNeanderthal Man and the Dawn of Human Paleontology.â
A companion volume presents The Invisible Pyramid (1970), The Night Country (1971), and the essays gathered after his death in The Star Thrower (1978).
LIBRARY OF AMERICAÂ is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nationâs literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, Americaâs best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
About: An eminent paleontologist with the soul and skill of a poet, Loren Eiseley (1907–1977) was among the twentieth century’s greatest inheritors of the literary tradition of Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, and John Muir, and a precursor to such later writers as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Carl Sagan.
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