Author(s): Paul Chambers
For millennia these mighty beasts lived in isolation on remote oceanic islands such as the Galapagos, Seychelles and Mauritius. From the sixteenth century, the discovery that tortoises were good to eat and their strategic location led to a wholesale plunder of their population by ships making long voyages. Later, Victorian scientists became fascinated by these creatures, and from wondering why it was that such large animals were always to be found on remote islands came the first understanding of ecology and biogeography. It was the giant tortoise that directly inspired Darwin to create his theory of natural selection. Could a tortoise which Darwin took from the Galapagos in 1835 still be alive today in an Australian zoo? Indeed many people have become fascinated with these gentle giants. We learn why the French surrendered the island of Mauritius but baulked at handing over their mascot tortoise and why the discovery of some dodo bones inspired Victorian scientists to launch a
'Paul Chambers tells the wonderful ... "unexpected history" of the giant tortoise for the general reader' -- New Scientist 20040703 'A book for reptile lovers that will also interest science historians' -- Good Book Guide 20040901 'It represents a challenge to write a book about them [giant tortoises] which is pacy, light-footed, graceful and diverting. In general, Paul Chambers meets the challenge, and those interested in this armoured colossus of a reptile will be grateful to Chambers for bringing so much information about it into one accessible place.' -- Tom Fort, Sunday Telegraph 20040627 'As Paul Chambers' mix of popular science and history aims to prove, there's a lot more to their story [the tortoises'] than you'd expect ... Chambers deftly draws together anecdotes and expert knowledge ... unlike the tortoises, [this story] never plods' -- Time Out 20040825 'Chambers' book is as strange and wonderful as the tortoise itself' -- Brentwood Recorder 20040709 'Chambers's account of these lumbering megafauna is a solidly researched and lovingly told epic of extinctions, survival, exploration, science, politics, colonial rivalry and unfeasibly hefty beasts. He combines a lightness of touch with an avalanche of mesmerising facts, anecdotes and details to deliver the first genuine natural history page-turner I've picked up in ages.' -- The Australian 20040901 'Fascinating ... a brisk historical narrative' -- The Field 20050601 'Excellent in its scope and writing ... For those with a fondness for giant tortoises it is excellent news to have someone reclaiming their important role in the history of science.' -- Times Literary Supplement 20041015 'Pacy, light-footed, graceful and diverting... be grateful to Chambers for bringing so much information about it into one accessible place.' -- Tom Fort, Sunday Telegraph 20040627 'A wonderful exploration of the history of this gentle giant ... Lovingly researched and engagingly narrated' -- P D Smith, The Guardian 20040731 'Chambers' volume is entertaining, elegiac and anything but plodding. With wonderfully arcane asides ... this is a surprisingly revelatory volume' -- Scotland on Sunday 20040704 'Hugely entertaining' -- Daily Telegraph 20040828 'Quirky ... an enjoyable account of an intriguing creature' -- The Scotsman 20040807 'This book is as entrancing as the creature it describes' -- Independent 20050408 'Very readable and full of engrossing anecdotes' -- New Scientist 20050402 'An entertaining volume with a fascinating look into the giant tortoise's history and evolution.' -- Sunday Telegraph 20050327 'A delightful tribute' -- Guardian 20050409
Paul Chambers has a PhD in Micropalaeontology from University College, London, and has worked in London's Natural History Museum. He is now a freelance writer and scientific consultant and has just finished working on the sequel to the BBC's successful 'Walking With Dinosaurs' series.