The lagoon

Leroi AM. 2014. The Lagoon:  How Aristotle invented science
Winner:        London Hellenic Prize 2015
Winner:        Runciman Prize 2015
Shortlisted:  Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction 2014
Longlisted:   Warwick Prize for Writing 2015
In the Eastern Aegean lies an island. It has silver olive groves, green marshes and forested hills. In the spring, migrating birds fill its skies and flowers fill its meadows. And there is a lagoon, clear and calm, that cuts the island nearly in two. Science was born on its shores.
 In 345 BC, Aristotle arrived on Lesbos. He was young and newly married. In Athens, he had been taught by Plato to seek truth in the intangible realm of ideas. Rejecting his teacher’s metaphysics, Aristotle began to study nature. He recorded the salaciousness of sparrows, the sexual incontinence of girls, the stomachs of snails, the sensitivity of sponges, the sounds of cicadas and the structure of the human heart. And then he explained them all. He founded the Science of Life.
The Lagoon is the wondrous story of how one man began the greatest of all human endeavours; how, for centuries, his work was celebrated and how, in the Scientific Revolution, it was condemned so that today he is remembered as a philosopher, but forgotten as a scientist. Yet his science was beautiful and vast.
In this luminous book, acclaimed biologist Armand Marie Leroi goes to Lesbos to see the creatures that Aristotle knew and loved. He recovers Aristotle’s science and explores his inspired theories – as well as the things that he got wildly wrong. Modern science still bears Aristotle’s stamp. Even now he shows us how to discover new worlds.
London: Bloomsbury | New YorkViking Penguin | Amsterdam: Contact | Tokyo: Misuzu Shobol | Moscow: Corpus Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Paris: Flammarion | Madrid: Guadalmazán
A heroic, beautiful work. Philip Hoare
Inspired and inspiring.  Nature
Leroi’s Aristotle is a fit hero for the biological century, and The Lagoon is a work as important to a historian and philosopher of science as it is informative to a biologist and entertaining to the general reader. As compelling as Stephen Jay Gould’s best work, it will long outlast most nature writing of recent years. New Scientist
This book is powerful, graceful and charming. Leroi’s prose is as blue-white bright as an Aegean sky reflected from a whitewashed wall. Guardian
On the whole, I admire this entertaining, insightful and felicitously written book. Just don’t trust anything he says about Plato. New York Times
Lush, epic and hugely enjoyable…this big, sumptuous book made me hungry. Observer
An absolutely gripping read.  Saturday Times, London
If you ever thought that Aristotle was a fact-stacking bore with a pendantic turn of prose and mind, then this brilliant book will put you deliciously straight. Sunday Times, London
Compelling, sometimes contentious, and always thought-provoking. Financial Times
Leroi is an enthralling and irreverent guide to “the first scientist”. Independent
The Lagoon doesn’t unfold gradually and gracefully; it lunges and explodes all over with wit, erudition, and enthusiasm. Open Letters Monthly
Leroi’s own curiosity and passion for nature evokes our awe for the infinite diversity of the natural world. We marvel along with him at Aristotle’s sheer energy and intelligence. London Review of Books
Leroi is a brilliant guide to the history of science. He traces the history of ideas with skill and care, and he avoids the smug certainty of many contemporary science writers. Daily Beast
In 2014, Aristotle joins the ranks of his fellow biologists. Biographile
A wide ranging tour de force.  Kirkus
Evokes an air of timelessness with his gorgeous descriptions.  Publisher’s weekly
Leroi… uses his detailed local knowledge to splendid effect, evocatively re-creating the experiences of this peripatetic philosopher. Literary Review
Leroi uses Aristotle’s at times remarkably acute biological insights as a springboard for some beautifully clear explanations of some very difficult concepts in modern biology. Wall Street Journal
An extraordinary book.  Journal of Hellenic Studies
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