Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Privileged Hands

Privileged Hands

A Scientific Life

Geerat J. Vermeij

Henry Holt and Co.




His fingers move across the surface of a shell, feeling the ridges and contours, searching for clues, gathering information unnoticed by the untrained eye. For Dr. Geerat Vermeij's fingers are his eyes. One of the most accomplished evolutionary biologists of our time and the world's leading authority on an ancient "arms race" among mollusks, Dr. Vermeij is blind.

No ordinary autobiography, Privileged Hands is the story of Dr. Vermeij's challenge and triumph. What makes his story so compelling is how he sees and what his insights reveal about the wonder of life on planet Earth. His exhaustive research of ancient and living mollusks, particularly shells, is extraordinary in its scope and perspective about how species arm themselves, compete, and survive. This is an intriguing irony for someone whose incomparable story is characterized by an unfailing determination to thrive in a sighted world and in the world of science. For Dr. Vermeij's self-portrait is also a portrait of the practice of science--his views on evolution and biodiversity, and the importance of observation are as much the story as are his family relationships, education, and position on arritmative action.

Privileged Hands is provocative and intelligent storytelling: it reveals as much about our own lives as it does about this one, remarkable, scientist's life.

" 'Uplifting' may smack of sentimentality, but Vermeij's life story surely is uplifting—and it contributes importantly to evolutionary science." - Kirkus Reviews


Priveleged Hands

Chapter 1
A tray of shells stands before me in the bright December sunshine streaming in through the north window of our cozy rented house. I know that the previous day's haul,...


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About the author

Geerat J. Vermeij

Dr. Geerat Vermeij, a preeminent evolutionary biologist and paleontologist, is a professor at the University of California, Davis. He has been awarded MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was the editor of Paleobiology and of Evolution, the field's foremost journals of natural history and is the author of A Natural History of Shells; Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life; and Biogeography and Adaptation: Patterns of Marine Life.

Geerat J. Vermeij