In this dynamic account, award-winning science writer Ann Gibbons chronicles an extraordinary quest to answer the most primal of questions: When and where was the dawn of humankind?
Following four intensely competitive international teams of scientists in a heated race to find the “missing link”—the fossil of the earliest human ancestor—Gibbons ventures to Africa, where she encounters a fascinating array of fossil hunters: Tim White, the irreverent Californian who discovered the partial skeleton of a primate that lived 4.4 million years ago in Ethiopia; French paleontologist Michel Brunet, who uncovers a skull in Chad that could date the beginnings of humankind to seven million years ago; and two other groups—one led by zoologist Meave Leakey, the other by British geologist Martin Pickford and his French paleontologist partner, Brigitte Senut—who enter the race with landmark discoveries of their own. Through scrupulous research and vivid first-person reporting, The First Human reveals the perils and the promises of fossil hunting on a grand competitive scale.
“A wonderful, balanced, and accurate account of the search for the oldest human ancestors and the personages involved in this quest. Gibbons provides a revealing window into the house of horrors that can be human origins research.” —Science
“Thrilling.... Gibbons [writes] with great flair.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An entertaining, richly detailed story, told with clarity and a commanding grasp of the complexities of human origins.” —The Plain Dealer
“Colorful and readable. . . . Like a detective story that puts Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, V.I. Warshawski, Easy Rawlins and Gil Grissom all in the same room, gives them a handful of clues, and lets them argue endlessly about the solution. Science writing is rarely this entertaining.” —San Jose Mercury News
FINALIST 2007 - L.A. Times Book Prize (Science and Tech)
Ann Gibbons, the primary writer on human evolution for Science magazine for more than a decade, has taught science writing at Carnegie Mellon University. She has been a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Science Journalism Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.