John Tyler Bonner, one of our most distinguished and creative biologists, here offers a completely new perspective on the role of size in biology. In his hallmark friendly style, he explores the universal impact of being the right size. By examining stories ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Gulliver’s Travels, he shows that humans have always been fascinated by things big and small. Why then does size always reside on the fringes of science and never on the center stage? Why do biologists and others ponder size only when studying something else — running speed, life span, or metabolism?
Why Size Matters, a pioneering book of big ideas in a compact size, gives size its due by presenting a profound yet lucid overview of what we know about its role in the living world. Bonner argues that size really does matter — that it is the supreme and universal determinant of what any organism can be and do. For example, because tiny creatures are subject primarily to forces of cohesion and larger beasts to gravity, a fly can easily walk up a wall, something we humans cannot even begin to imagine doing.
Bonner introduces us to size through the giants and dwarfs of human, animal, and plant history and then explores questions including the physics of size as it affects biology, the evolution of size over geological time, and the role of size in the function and longevity of living things.
As this elegantly written book shows, size affects life in its every aspect. It is a universal frame from which nothing escapes.
Awards and Recognition
- One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007
"Bonner argues that size is a driving force for all of biology. . . . He demonstrates convincingly [that] size dictates everything from an animal's shape and appearance to its locomotion, speed, voice and social organization."—Wray Herbert, Washington Post Book World
"From giant dinosaurs to cellular clockworks, people are astonished by the large and fascinated by the small. But as this diminutive book describes with elegant simplicity, size is far more important than mere curiosity- it 'drives the form and function of everything that lives.' . . . Drawing parallels from physics, engineering, and human (and animal societies), Bonner vividly illustrates how something apparently so simple as size is actually so fundamentally important."—Choice
"Bonner's main argument in Why Size Matters is that changes in size are not the result of changes in shape. . . . Bonner has written a book in a friendly voice that enlarges the picture of how everyone, big and small, thinks of size and why it matters very much."—Biology Digest
"A masterful and engaging work, elegant in its simplicity despite its subject's complexity."—Susan Lumpkin, Zoogoer
"An original and very interesting book."—Michel Cuisin, Mammalia
"[Bonner] examines the largest and smallest creatures on Earth. Size, asserts Bonner, determines five important biological features: strength, surface area, complexity, rate of metabolism, and organism abundance. In this diminutive book, he explains each feature and how it relates to the others. He concludes, size matters."—Science News
"The important point made by Bonner . . . is that differences in magnitude affect biological and physical properties directly, exposing the organisms to the action of different selection pressures. . . . Why Size Matters will be of major interest for readers from different disciplines, just as the topic and the principles discussed by Bonner apply to diverse scientific areas."—Andre J. Riveros, TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution
"John Tyler Bonner's career in biology has been long, happy, and just a little larger than life. For more than sixty years, the invisible world he explores through the microscope has led him to big ideas about the nature of things. This tiny book is their summation. As you read it, the light on the stage of the microscope expands and expands until virtually everything is illuminated. In fact, after reading Why Size Matters, you may conclude that this book is the one and only place where size does not matter."—Jonathan Weiner, author of The Beak of the Finch and His Brother's Keeper
"John Tyler Bonner's latest book is a masterly summary of more than fifty years of thinking about why organisms are the size they are, and it is presented in the elegant prose we have come to expect from him. The theme is lucidly set out, developed using clear examples, and illustrated with drawings and graphs that enhance the text and his explanations of topics."—Brian K. Hall, Dalhousie University
"Why Size Matters has the usual spontaneity and insight of a book by John Tyler Bonner. It is full of interesting facts and ideas, and is fun to read-the next best thing to a conversation with the author himself. Bonner approaches the complex subject of size in biology with unabashed enthusiasm. He combines a literary flair with scientific sophistication to explain why dimension and scale so profoundly affect individual behavior and organic evolution."—Mary Jane West-Eberhard, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute