How and why vertebrate paleontology flourished at New York’s American Museum of Natural History in the early 20th century
With a main focus on Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935), a prominent scientist and administrator who dominated vertebrate paleontology in that era and played a pivotal role in creating a leading institution and a manor program of research in that field.
Born into a wealthy New York family, Osborn was in a unique position to follow vigorously his scientific interests in vertebrate paleontology and further worldwide science education through use of the considerable social, political, and financial resources at his command. Yet he was able to guide the development of the American Museum of Natural History’s program in vertebrate paleontology in such a manner as to avoid conflict with the values and beliefs associated with the interests of the upper-class elite who supported the program.
His ties to a wide network of influential figures, including the trustees of the American Museum, provided him with the political and financial resources necessary to build a major program in vertebrate paleontology. An ambitious and energetic man, Osborn took advantage of those opportunities to promote his field of study and to establish himself as a leading administrator at the American Museum, Colombia University, and the New York Zoological Society.
Although Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is beloved as one of the most profound and enduring works of American fiction, we rarely consider it a work of nature writing—or even a novel of the sea. Yet Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Dillard avers Moby-Dick is the “best book ever written about nature,” and nearly the entirety of the story is set on the waves, with scarcely a whiff of land. In fact, Ishmael’s sea yarn is in conversation with the nature writing of Emerson and Thoreau, and Melville himself did much more than live for a year in a cabin beside a pond. He set sail: to the far remote Pacific Ocean, spending more than three years at sea before writing his masterpiece in 1851.
A revelation for Moby-Dick devotees and neophytes alike, Ahab’s Rolling Sea is a chronological journey through the natural history of Melville’s novel. From white whales to whale intelligence, giant squids, barnacles, albatross, and sharks, Richard J. King examines what Melville knew from his own experiences and the sources available to a reader in the mid-1800s, exploring how and why Melville might have twisted what was known to serve his fiction. King then climbs to the crow’s nest, setting Melville in the context of the American perception of the ocean in 1851—at the very start of the Industrial Revolution and just before the publication of On the Origin of Species. King compares Ahab’s and Ishmael’s worldviews to how we see the ocean today: an expanse still immortal and sublime, but also in crisis. And although the concept of stewardship of the sea would have been entirely foreign, if not absurd, to Melville, King argues that Melville’s narrator Ishmael reveals his own tendencies toward what we would now call environmentalism.
Featuring a coffer of illustrations and an array of interviews with contemporary scientists, fishers, and whale watch operators, Ahab’s Rolling Sea offers new insight not only into a cherished masterwork and its author but also into our evolving relationship with the briny deep—from whale hunters to climate refugees.
A provocative analysis of the ways our culture suffers amythia
Amythia results when cosmology and morality are not effectively integrated by a root metaphor, and the only possibility for the future is to transpose the old Christian God as Person to a root metaphor that is even older in origin, the concept of the Covenant tradition inherited from Israel but now understood in a nonsupernaturalist manner.
Rue asserts that amythia is a critical condition within the natural history of Western culture. The argument of the book begins with a theoretical perspective on the place of human culture within the scope of natural history and proceeds to establish the conceptual foundations for a natural history of culture.
Following an overview of the natural history of Western culture to expose the origins and depth of the contemporary intellectual and moral crisis, Rue moves on to specify and justify the limits of distinctiveness and plausibility appropriate for the task of transposing Covenant tradition. Finally, an appeal is made to the mythmakers of contemporary culture to take up the challenge of amythia.
In Ancient Piñon-Juniper Woodlands, editor Lisa Floyd gathers together noted scientists and historians to celebrate the varied and unique woodland region surrounding Mesa Verde National Park. One of the most widespread habitat types in the West, piñon-juniper woodlands have faced extensive eradication, grazing pressures, and the encroachment of human developments, and, consequently, only a few mature stands have reached their full growth potential. Mesa Verde Country, with its deep canyons and high ridgetops, is the magnificent home of many of these ancient stands.
Impressively broad in scope, Floyd's volume thoroughly explores Mesa Verde Country's important and historic ecosystem. Covering such diverse topics as geologic evolution, natural history, human history, bats, and fungi, to name but a few, this volume will appeal to scientists, resource managers, conservationists, and the lay reader with an interest in this most western of ecosystems. Technical Editors: David D. Hanna, William H. Romme and Marilyn Colyer
In Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s most famous paintings, grapes, fish, and even the beaks of birds form human hair. A pear stands in for a man’s chin. Citrus fruits sprout from a tree trunk that doubles as a neck. All sorts of natural phenomena come together on canvas and panel to assemble the strange heads and faces that constitute one of Renaissance art’s most striking oeuvres. The first major study in a generation of the artist behind these remarkable paintings, Arcimboldo tells the singular story of their creation.
Drawing on his thirty-five-year engagement with the artist, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann begins with an overview of Arcimboldo’s life and work, exploring the artist’s early years in sixteenth-century Lombardy, his grounding in Leonardesque traditions, and his tenure as a Habsburg court portraitist in Vienna and Prague. Arcimboldo then trains its focus on the celebrated composite heads, approaching them as visual jokes with serious underpinnings—images that poetically display pictorial wit while conveying an allegorical message. In addition to probing the humanistic, literary, and philosophical dimensions of these pieces, Kaufmann explains that they embody their creator’s continuous engagement with nature painting and natural history. He reveals, in fact, that Arcimboldo painted many more nature studies than scholars have realized—a finding that significantly deepens current interpretations of the composite heads.
Demonstrating the previously overlooked importance of these works to natural history and still-life painting, Arcimboldo finally restores the artist’s fantastic visual jokes to their rightful place in the history of both science and art.
An Arkansas Florilegium is a late-flowering extension of the work initiated sixty years ago with University of Arkansas botanist Edwin B. Smith’s first entries in his pioneering Atlas and Annotated List of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas. Soon after this seminal survey of the state’s flora was published in 1978, Kent Bonar, a Missouri-born Thoreau acolyte employed as a naturalist by the Arkansas Park Service, began lugging the volume along on hikes through the woods surrounding his Newton County home, entering hundreds upon hundreds of meticulous illustrations into Smith’s work.
Thirty-five years later, with Smith retired and Bonar long gone from the park service but still drawing, Bonar’s weathered and battered copy of the atlas was seized by a diverse cadre of amateur admirers motivated by fears of its damage or loss. Their fears were certainly justified; after all, the pages were now jammed to the margins with some 3,500 drawings, and the volume had already survived one accidental dunking in an Ozark stream.
An Arkansas Florilegium brings Smith’s and Bonar’s knowledge and lifelong diligence to the world in this unique mix of art, science, and Arkansas saga.
Using the ecosystem concept as his starting point, the author examines the complex relationship between premodern armed forces and their environment at three levels: landscapes, living beings, and diseases. The study focuses on Europe’s Meuse Region, well-known among historians of war as a battleground between France and Germany. By analyzing soldiers’ long-term interactions with nature, this book engages with current debates about the ecological impact of the military, and provides new impetus for contemporary armed forces to make greater effort to reduce their environmental footprint.