The Sciences

Greatest Book Poll Results

Our readers selected their own greatest science book in history, and it is...


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In the December 2006 issue, DISCOVER assembled The All-Time Essential Reading List—the 25 greatest science books ever written. We also held a poll to see what readers thought were the greatest books, and 800 folks weighed in.

As the #1 science book of all-time our readers picked... Darwin's The Origin of Species (which was tied for #1 in our official list) followed by Principia Mathematica by Newton (#3 on our list), with all others way, way behind. Our official DISCOVER list and the readers-choice list are pretty similar at the top, but they diverge widely after that.

Here are the results in more detail:

You might notice the rather sizable proportion of people who selected none of the listed options—over 150 poll respondents, making "other" the third-most popular choice. We couldn't decide if this was more a result of our list being faulty, different ideas of what constitutes the greatest science book, or just our ornery, contrarian readers. The "other" responses included:

- Four votes for the Bible (actually, two for the Bible and two for the "BIBLE")

- Four votes for Gödel, Escher, Bach, by Richard Hofstadter

- Eight votes for Euclid's Elements (one respondent added, "The list is bogus. Euclid should be number one and it's [sic] not even one [sic] your ignorant list! I'm speechless. Your selection is crazy. Aristoteles [sic] is science? More than Euclid?")

- One lonely vote for Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard

- Five votes for Flatland, by Edwin Abbott

- One vote for Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science (Eddy's fan wrote,"This is not a joke. If Mrs. Eddy is right, matter exists only becausewe think it does.")

Other interesting observations and comments included:

- A good number of folks bristled at the selection of Carson's book: "Silent Spring caused the death of 30 million Africans due to malaria [because people stopped using DDT on mosquitoes]. I don't think such a horrible result entitles it to be on this list." Others objected to Sexual Behavior:"Kinsey has been discredited scientifically. Why not Masters and Johnson?" One slammed both: "Kinsey??? Carson??? Are you kidding???Both have been soundly debunked."

- "Darwin was a hack; Dawkins is a quack"

- "Collected letters of Antony von Leeuwenhoek. He was the first person to see bacteria and protists—his letters are wonderfulto read. He called the protists 'wee beasties.'"

- "You should publish these books as a branded series! Great XMas gifts!" Our businesspeople are now scheming away...

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