"When you meet people, whether they're fully clothed on the street or scantily clad on the beach, the first part of their body that you see, smell, and perhaps touch is the skin. Skin is our largest and most visible organ, our personal poster board for decoration and advertisement. Nina Jablonski gives us the best and most fascinating account of everything that you might want to know about the packaging of our anatomy."Jared Diamond, author of Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel
"This fascinating book traces the long evolutionary history of our integument, revealing a whole host of essential skin functions that most of us have probably never even thought of."Ian Tattersall, author of The Fossil Trail
"An intriguing study of our body's most visible organ. I wish I'd written it myself."Spencer Wells, author of The Journey of Man
"A fascinating and comprehensive account of the biological and cultural aspects of human skin."John Relethford, SUNY at Oneonta
This amply illustrated rhapsody to the body's largest and most visible organ showcases skin's versatility, importance in human biology and uniqueness: human skin is hairless and sweaty, has evolved in a spectrum of colors and is a billboard for self-expression. Penn State's anthropology chair, Jablonski nimbly interprets scientific data for a lay audience, and her geeky love for her discipline is often infectious. At her most compelling, Jablonski demonstrates that our hairlessness didn't evolve after humans adopted clothing or because our distant hominid relatives splashed through an aquatic phase like dolphins and whales; rather, it's inextricably linked to our abundance of sweat glands. Similarly intriguing are the notions that indigenous people of the hot tropics are tall and lean because mammals with a high ratio of skin surface area to body weight keep cool in intense heat, and that women have lighter skin color than men because females need to maximize vitamin D production during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Much less successful is a chapter entitled "Wear and Tear," which briefly discusses but sheds little light on such skin conditions as birthmarks, scabs, burns and acne, and serves up the same visual guide to checking moles for melanoma that is found in countless doctors' offices. Color and b&w illus. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.