Corfield, Richard 1962-

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Corfield, Richard 1962-


Born 1962, in Highgate, North London, England; married; wife's name Julie; children: Jessica, Susannah. Education: Attended Bristol University; University of Cambridge, Ph.D.


Home—West Oxfordshire, England. Agent—Peter Robinson, Rogers, Coleridge & White Literary Agency, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Earth scientist, educator, lecturer, and author. Oxford University, Oxford, England, faculty member in the department of Earth science.


Architects of Eternity: The New Science of Fossils, Headline (London, England), 2001.

The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage of HMS Challenger, Joseph Henry Press (Washington, DC), 2003.

Lives of the Planets: A Natural History of the Solar System, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Science and Nature.


Richard Corfield is an earth scientist who has also had a longtime interest in space travel and exploration of the solar system and beyond. In his first book, Architects of Eternity: The New Science of Fossils, he discusses the science of fossils as he relates the development of paleontology through the eyes of some of the science's founding fathers. Among the topics he presents are Thomas Henry Huxley, who is referred to as "Darwin's Bulldog," and the "bone wars" of paleontologists Othniel Marsh and Edward Cope. The latter two were fierce rivals in the discovery of paleontology specimens; they discovered and described over 120 species of new dinosaurs. Corfield also examines the development of fossils as indicators of the passage of time. Finally, Corfield addresses topics such as the science behind the movie Jurassic Park and ends by exploring frontiers and controversies facing modern paleontologists.

In his second book, The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage of HMS Challenger, Corfield recounts the voyage of the HMS Challenger, which began in 1872. He tells the story of the fascinating sights that the expedition encountered as it traveled nearly 70,000 miles gathering information about the oceans. As noted by Natural History contributor Laurence A. Marshall, the author "draws not only on the voluminous records of the expedition's scientists, but also on the personal memoirs of its naval officers—most memorably, the candid and previously unpublished diary of a young ship's steward named Joseph Matkin." In the book's twelve chapters, the author covers the entire voyage, which helped bring in the modern era of oceanography, marine biology, and marine geology. He also discusses how the scientific discoveries made during the voyage have impacted modern science. "Perhaps the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of this slim volume is the deft manner in which Corfield alternates between the expedition's many original discoveries and our present understanding of the same phenomena," remarked William A. Berggren in Science. Margaret Rioux, writing in the Library Journal, noted that readers will come away from the book "with a new respect … for how far we've come by standing on the shoulders of these giants."

Corfield's Lives of the Planets: A Natural History of the Solar System was called an "accessible yet still very challenging overview of the current state of humankind's knowledge of the sun, the planets, asteroids and other heavenly bodies" by BookPage contributor Martin Brady. Here, Corfield details space missions to the planets to provide an overview of our solar system. Describing planetary science as a field in the midst of a revolution, the author explains how it is moving from a descriptive to an increasingly experimental science as evidenced by various space missions beginning in the 1960s. For the most part, according to the author, space missions have been general in nature in that they collected huge amounts of information with the idea that this information would lead scientists to ask the right questions. However, in the twenty-first century, missions are becoming more and more focused on specific goals. The author, furthermore, discusses issues such as the debate over whether or not Pluto is a planet and the competition between two California space exploratory agencies: the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Ames Research Center. He also addresses why humans must change their perspective of their place in the universe.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to Lives of the Planets as "a well-crafted survey of a dauntingly broad body of material." Writing on the Universe Today Web site, Mark Mortimer favorably noted two specific aspects of the book. Praising the author's writing style and "common prose," Mortimer commented on the "special tuning toward the human interest, that is, an anthropocentric sense." The critic added: "The lure of finding life, water oceans and other livable planets arises again and again. Corfield picks away at the perceived uniqueness of humanity, the potential of the solar system and the grand potential of the universe."

Corfield told CA: "I have been interested in writing since I was a child. I love telling stories whether they be based on fact or fiction.

"My work has been influenced by the writers Stephen Jay Gould, John Wyndham, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, James Blish, Michael Crichton, M.K. Wren, Alistair MacLean, and Robert Harris to name but a few!"

When asked to describe his writing process, Corfield responded: "Half-close your eyes and let your subconscious take over!

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that there is no real difference between nonfiction and fiction. The only difference that matters is the difference between good writing and bad writing.

"I hope my books will entertain and educate people about the importance of science."



Booklist, July 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Lives of the Planets: A Natural History of the Solar System, p. 15.

California Bookwatch, December, 2007, review of Lives of the Planets.

Choice, March, 2004, J.S. Schwartz, review of The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage of HMS Challenger, p. 1316.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2007, review of Lives of the Planets.

Library Bookwatch, October, 2005, review of The Silent Landscape.

Library Journal, September 15, 2003, Margaret Rioux, review of The Silent Landscape, p. 87.

Natural History, October, 2003, Laurence A. Marshall, review of The Silent Landscape, p. 66.

Nature, May 13, 2004, Charles Langmuir, review of The Silent Landscape, p. 131.

Nature Australia, summer, 2001, Steve Wroe, review of Architects of Eternity: The New Science of Fossils.

New Scientist, April 21, 2001, review of Architects of Eternity, p. 52; July 7, 2007, David Hughes, "It's Another World," review of Lives of the Planets, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, July 7, 2003, review of The Silent Landscape, p. 62; May 14, 2007, review of Lives of the Planets, p. 48.

Science, November 7, 2003, William A. Berggren, "First Views of the Depths," review of Lives of the Planets, p. 989.

Science News, August 18, 2007, review of Lives of the Planets, p. 111.

Times Higher Education Supplement, January 14, 2005, Frank James, "Voyage to Oceanic Origins Sinks in Historical Currents," review of The Silent Landscape, p. 26.

Times Literary Supplement, February 25, 2005, Richard Shelton, "Cruising for Crinoids and Cucumbers," review of The Silent Landscape, p. 5.

Washington Post Book World, January 28, 2007, Richard Corfield, "The Day the Astronauts Died," p. B03.


BookPage, (February 16, 2008), Martin Brady, review of Lives of the Planets.

Midwest Book Review, (February 16, 2008), Jim Sullivan, review of Lives of the Planets.

Richard Corfield Home Page, (February 16, 2008).

Space Review, (January 7, 2008), Jeff Foust, review of Lives of the Planets.

Universe Today, (February 16, 2008), Mark Mortimer, review of Lives of the Planets.