Michael Benton’s book focuses on the largest mass extinction of life on Earth known to science, when indeed, life did nearly die! The book is organized into twelve chapters. Chapters 1–4 provide a historical discourse which explores early discoveries of vertebrate fossils, the development of Cuvier’s concept of extinction, and the contributions of Murchison, Smith, Phillips, Lyell and others to stratigraphy in general, to the Permian in particular, and to the development of the concept of catastrophism. I enjoyed these early chapters, into which Benton folds his own personal experiences, and in which he brings alive Victorian geology. Like Benton,...

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