The Making of Man (1960)

The Making of Man by I W Cornwall , illustrated by M Maitland Howard, is a non-fiction book about the evolution of the human race. It has been superceeded by other titles and is long since out of print. In fact it is the last non-fiction book which won the Carnegie Medal. Possibly the committee decided to move away from awarding the Carnegie prize to non-fction which dates too easily and is difficult to compare fairly with the fiction. There are now other prizes awarded to non-fiction books, for instance the School Iibrary Assocation’s which better captures the genre.

Writing in 1965, Marcus Crouch was very complimentary about the book, comparing it to The Lantern Bearers; “an equally masterly but restrained, scholarly examination of the evidence of Man’s orgin” and written in “muscular prose”. It is illustrated by M Maitland Howard, a colleague of Mr Cornwall in a, for the time, novel way. All evidenced fact (e.g. bone fragments, skulls etc) are illustrated in black, those which are of conjecture are illustrated in red. This is a constant reminder to those who love to jump to conclusion of the importance of respect for the evidence.

I personally struggled to read it, and skimmed through it quickly. This is in part because it is not a subject for which I hold an innate interest, partly because I’m sure science has moved on and some of the conjecture have been proved wrong and we have learnt so much more in the interveening years. The illustrations and the factional way of presenting science was possible new 60 years ago. Personally, I enjoyed it less than the other non-fiction books which won the Carnegie – there’s no need to hunt down a copy of this unless you have a specialist interest in the making of man. 1/10.

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