When Humans Nearly Vanished: The Catastrophic Explosion of the Toba Volcano

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$27.95  $25.99
Smithsonian Books
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6.1 X 9.1 X 0.9 inches | 1.0 pounds

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About the Author
DONALD R. PROTHERO specializes in physics, planetary sciences, astronomy, earth sciences, and vertebrate paleontology. He taught for 35 years at the college level at Columbia, Knox, Pierce, and Vassar colleges, most recently as professor of geology at Occidental College and as lecturer in geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. He has authored or edited more than 300 scientific papers and 30 books, including Giants of the Lost World: Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Monsters of South America.
"Prothero (The Story of Earth in 25 Rocks), a paleontologist and geologist, describes Toba's eruption on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, around 74,000 years ago, as the "largest volcanic eruption in the past 28 million years," and briefly touches on the theory of how it decimated humanity, leading to a population bottleneck that partly explains the relative lack of genetic diversity in humans today. He also touches on the process by which scientists discovered the eruption had ever occurred, which only became apparent with new findings in 1993. Prothero writes [...] a precis of the current state of knowledge in these diverse fields." --Publishers Weekly

"Prothero's enthusiasm is infectious, and his boundless curiosity will draw in readers who may have only the lightest of knowledge about volcanoes, especially one as obscure as Toba. Prothero is a valuable guide." --Booklist

"Donald Prothero takes us on a journey through the complex evolution of scientific fields--including volcanology, biology, and archaeology--that converged to form the controversial idea that an enormous eruption of the Toba volcano, in today's Indonesia, may have caused a population bottleneck. This is a tale of discovery, exploring how large explosive eruptions capture our imagination and why the answers to scientific inquiries often begin with 'It's complicated.'" --Janine Krippner, volcanologist, Concord University

"A passionate examination of a controversial subject. Prothero traces how one of the largest eruptions in the history of our species may have irrevocably changed the evolution of Homo sapiens, delving into both volcanology and anthropology and how they are intertwined." --Erik Klemetti, Associate Professor and Chair, Geosciences, Denison University, and author of Discover's "Rocky Planet" blog

"Prothero takes the reader on a breathtaking tour of volcanoes and human evolution. By deftly weaving together tales of discovery in many realms, from supervolcanoes to DNA, Prothero shows how a supervolcano nearly brought an end to the human race 74,000 years ago." --David M. Pyle, Professor, Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, and author of Volcanoes: Encounters through the Ages

"Prothero has done a very fine job of assembling information from many disciplines, including geology, genetics, and anthropology, and weaving it into a coherent and eminently readable account of the possible impacts of the gargantuan eruption of the Toba volcano in Sumatra some 74,000 years ago. There is something for everyone in this eclectic and lively piece of popular scientific writing." --Martin Williams, Adjunct Professor in Earth Sciences and Emeritus Professor, University of Adelaide