Draws together information from diverse sources to illuminate an important chapter in the history of American science
Sorensen asks how it came about that, within the span of forty years, the American entomological community developed from a few gentlemen naturalists with primary links to Europe to a thriving scientific community exercising world leadership in entomological science. He investigates the relationship between American and European entomology, the background of American entomologists, the implications of entomological theory, and the specific links between 19th-century American society and the rapid institutional growth and advances in theoretical and applied entomology.
By the 1880s the entomologists constituted the largest single group of American zoologists and the largest group of ecologists in the world. While rooted in the British natural history tradition, these individuals developed a distinctive American style of entomological investigation. Inspired by the concept of the balance of nature, they excelled in field investigations of North American insects with special emphasis on insect pests that threatened crop production in a market-oriented agriculture. During this period, entomologists described over ten times as many North American insect species as had been previously named, and they consolidated their findings in definitive collections. Employing evolutionary theory, they contributed to the growing understanding of insect migration, mimicry, seasonal dimorphism, and the symbiotic relationship of plant and animal species. Americans also led in the revision of insect taxonomy according to the new principles. Their employment of entomological findings in the practical control of agricultural pests set new standards worldwide. Initially ridiculed as eccentric bug hunters, American entomologists eventually achieved stature as agricultural advisers and as investigators into the origin and nature of life.
Based primarily on the correspondence of American entomologists, Brethren of the Net draws together information from diverse sources to illuminate an important chapter in the history of American science.
Why would a grown man chase hornets with a thermometer, paint whirligig beetles bright red, or track elephants through the night to fill trash bags with their prodigious droppings? Some might say—to advance science. Bernd Heinrich says—because it’s fun.Heinrich, author of the much acclaimed Bumblebee Economics, has been playing in the wilds of one continent or another all his life. In the process, he has become one of the world’s foremost physiological ecologists. With In a Patch of Fireweed, he will undoubtedly become one of our foremost writers of popular science.Part autobiography, part case study in the ways of field biology, In a Patch of Fireweed is an endlessly fascinating account of a scientist’s life and work. For the author, it is an opportunity to report not just his results but the curiosity, humor, error, passion, and competitiveness that feed into the process of discovery. For the reader, it is simply a delight, a rare chance to share the perceptions of an unusual mind fully in tune with the inner workings of nature. Before his years of research in the woodlands and deserts of North America, the New Guinea highlands, and the plains of East Africa, Heinrich had a sense of the wild that few people in this century can know. He tells the whole story, from his refugee childhood hidden in a German forest, eating mice fried in boar fat, to his ongoing research in the woods surrounding his cabin in Maine.
As we follow the path of a giant water bug or peer over the wing of a gypsy moth, we glimpse our world anew, at once shrunk and magnified. Owing to their size alone, insects’ experience of the world is radically different from ours. Air to them is as viscous as water to us. The predicament of size, along with the dizzying diversity of insects and their status as arguably the most successful organisms on earth, have inspired passion and eloquence in some of the world’s most innovative scientists. A World of Insects showcases classic works on insect behavior, physiology, and ecology published over half a century by Harvard University Press.James Costa, Vincent Dethier, Thomas Eisner, Lee Goff, Bernd Heinrich, Bert Hölldobler, Kenneth Roeder, Andrew Ross, Thomas Seeley, Karl von Frisch, Gilbert Waldbauer, E. O. Wilson, and Mark Winston—each writer, in his unique voice, paints a close-up portrait of the ways insects explore their environment, outmaneuver their enemies, mate, and care for kin.Selected by two world-class entomologists, these essays offer compelling descriptions of insect cooperation and warfare, the search for ancient insect DNA in amber, and the energy economics of hot-blooded insects. They also discuss the impact—for good and ill—of insects on our food supply, their role in crime scene investigation, and the popular fascination with pheromones, killer bees, and fire ants. Each entry begins with commentary on the authors, their topics, and the latest research in the field.
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