The Case of the Midwife Toad

The Case of the Midwife Toad s t A Scientific Mystery RevisitedDuring his plus years of writing Arthur Koestler has covered a wide range of modern problems from brainwashing in totalitarian societies to the conflict between s

  • Title: The Case of the Midwife Toad
  • Author: Arthur Koestler
  • ISBN: 9780394718231
  • Page: 499
  • Format: Paperback
  • s t A Scientific Mystery RevisitedDuring his 30 plus years of writing, Arthur Koestler has covered a wide range of modern problems from brainwashing in totalitarian societies to the conflict between science religion , most recently in The Act of Creation The Ghost in the Machine , humanity s potential capability for evolutionary development thru both nats t A Scientific Mystery RevisitedDuring his 30 plus years of writing, Arthur Koestler has covered a wide range of modern problems from brainwashing in totalitarian societies to the conflict between science religion , most recently in The Act of Creation The Ghost in the Machine , humanity s potential capability for evolutionary development thru both natural artificial means It isn t surprising then that Koestler should hark back to the opprobrious case of Dr Paul Kammerer, an Austrian biologist whose controversial experiments on the evolutionary process using among other amphibians the midwife toad, so named for its mating habits were denounced as fraudulent in 1926 by an American herpetologist, G.K Noble, in the pages of Nature whereupon Kammerer blew his brains out, seemingly confirming the old saw confession is suicide suicide is confession But Koestler s investigation, begun as a study of a scientist who betrayed his commitment to truth, indicates that Kammerer, far from being a laboratory quisling, was probably innocent a victim of an unknown colleague s machinations to discredit his work therefore in the larger sense a casualty of the still unresolved war between the nco Darwinist evolutionists who support the random mutation theory the heretical Lamarckians who maintain as did Kammerer s experiments that acquired characteristics can be transmitted from one generation to another I did not start with the intention to rehabilitate Paul Kammerer, says Koestler, but I ended up with an attempt to do so In the course of that effort he uses his skill as both inventive fantast experienced researcher to give the midwife toad case a sense of drama veracity Those who found The Double Helix satisfying will enjoy this one too, no matter if they agree with Koestler s conclusions Kirkus edited

    One thought on “The Case of the Midwife Toad”

    1. Interesting book. I liked the main theme: those who challenge the current framework are often shut down in relentless attack. These attacks are often not about the substance of the disagreement. However the diverting issues can shutdown conversation and allow the person challenging the status quo to be labeled unprofessional or questionable. Once this door is opened the argument can then be dismissed.

    2. Nonfiction based on the life of conflicted biologist Dr. Paul Kammerer. It's always interesting to discuss evolution theory; book was written well for a layman like myself. Some of the data in the Appendix was as interesting as the main story itself.

    3. This is an historical science mystery concerned with the theory of evolution and the persecution and suicide of a scientist who contested it. Koestler's Roots of Coincidence is often regarded as the successor to this book.

    4. Koestler's take on the scientific controversy of Paul Kammerer. Extremely well written and terribly interesting (if you like mysteries, biology, or philosophy of science). Worth it just for the way Koestler writes.

    5. Interesting but not compelling account of scientific controversy in pre-WWI Austria-Hungary. It is of more interest as a historical account of scientific practice prior to the rise of industrial research labs--lots of old school epistlary warfare--than as a "mystery." For the lay science enthusiast it is interesting to read of the theory of Lamarckism and he lays out the intellectual foundations of Darwinism much better than most authors in this genre. Some reflections on the state of things sti [...]

    6. Remember that perfect essay you wrote in college? You let the paths of research unfold before you, collected the anecdotal gems along the way and emerged with a story no one else had seen. This is better than that. Because Koestler is a better author than you. The subject of the story is Paul Kammerer, an artist turned scientist who saw the poetry in biology. He seems to have set up experiments based on what would be really cool if it worked out like he thought it would. Fittingly, this story ab [...]

    7. A fascinating book about an eminent Austrian scientist at the turn of the 20th century who did research on Darwinian theories or counter-theories. His work breeding certain Midwife Toads was the focus of incredible controversy. He was personally and professionally destroyed by envious scientific colleagues at other institutes, who claimed he faked his research. He committed suicide in 1926.

    8. Provides a nice overall perspective on the Dr. Paul Kammerer suicide case. Also, brilliantly illustrates how emotions and beliefs in science can lead to dirty politics between prominent scientists.

    9. Fascinating unraveling of this debate and drama I had no idea existed. I really enjoyed all of the primary sources!

    10. A delightful book, although somewhat dated in places now. I don't agree with everything Koestler says concerning evolution but it's still quite fascinating to see his mind at work.

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