Across the Shaman’s River is the story of one of Alaska’s last Native American strongholds, a Tlingit community closed off for a century until a fateful encounter between a shaman, a preacher, and John Muir.
Tucked in the corner of Southeast Alaska, the Tlingits had successfully warded off the Anglo influences that had swept into other corners of the territory. This tribe was viewed by European and American outsiders as the last wild tribe and a frustrating impediment to access. Missionaries and prospectors alike had widely failed to bring the Tlingit into their power. Yet, when John Muir arrived in 1879, accompanied by a fiery preacher, it only took a speech about “brotherhood”—and some encouragement from the revered local shaman Skandoo’o—to finally transform these “hostile heathens.”
Using Muir’s original journal entries, as well as historic writings of explorers juxtaposed with insights from contemporary tribal descendants, Across the Shaman’s River reveals how Muir’s famous canoe journey changed the course of history and had profound consequences on the region’s Native Americans.
This biography of Aldo Leopold follows him from his childhood as a precocious naturalist to his profoundly influential role in the development of conservation and modern environmentalism in the United States. This edition includes a new preface by author Curt Meine and an appreciation by acclaimed Kentucky writer and farmer Wendell Berry.
A household icon of the environmental movement, Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) may be the most quoted conservationist in history. A Sand County Almanac has sold millions of copies and Leopold's writings are venerated for their perceptions about land and how people might live in concert with the whole community of life.
But who is the man behind the words? How did he arrive at his profound and poetic insights, inspiring generations of environmentalists? Building on past scholarship and a fresh study of Leopold's unpublished archival materials, Julianne Lutz Newton retraces the intellectual journey generated by such passion and intelligence.
Aldo Leopold's Odyssey illuminates his lifelong quest for answers to a fundamental issue: how can people live prosperously on the land and keep it healthy, too? Leopold's journey took him from Iowa to Yale to the Southwest to Wisconsin, with fascinating stops along the way to probe the causes of early land settlement failures, contribute to the emerging science of ecology, and craft a new vision for land use.
More than a biography, this articulate volume is a guide to one man's intellectual growth, and an inspirational resource for anyone pondering the relationships between people and the land.
In 2006, Julianne Lutz Warren (née Newton) asked readers to rediscover one of history’s most renowned conservationists. Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey was hailed by The New York Times as a “biography of ideas,” making “us feel the loss of what might have followed A Sand County Almanac by showing us in authoritative detail what led up to it.” Warren’s astute narrative quickly became an essential part of the Leopold canon, introducing new readers to the father of wildlife ecology and offering a fresh perspective to even the most seasoned scholars.
A decade later, as our very concept of wilderness is changing, Warren frames Leopold’s work in the context of the Anthropocene. With a new preface and foreword by Bill McKibben, the book underscores the ever-growing importance of Leopold’s ideas in an increasingly human-dominated landscape.
Drawing on unpublished archives, Warren traces Leopold’s quest to define and preserve land health. Leopold's journey took him from Iowa to Yale to the Southwest to Wisconsin, with fascinating stops along the way to probe the causes of early land settlement failures, contribute to the emerging science of ecology, and craft a new vision for land use.
Leopold’s life was dedicated to one fundamental dilemma: how can people live prosperously on the land and keep it healthy, too? For anyone compelled by this question, the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey offers insight and inspiration.
An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion
Edited by Charles H. Smith, James T. Costa, and David A. Collard University of Chicago Press, 2019 Library of Congress QH31.W2A74 2019 | Dewey Decimal 508.092
Although Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) was one of the most famous scientists in the world at the time of his death at the age of ninety, today he is known to many as a kind of “almost-Darwin,” a secondary figure relegated to the footnotes of Darwin’s prodigious insights. But this diminution could hardly be less justified. Research into the life of this brilliant naturalist and social critic continues to produce new insights into his significance to history and his role in helping to shape modern thought.
Wallace declared his eight years of exploration in southeast Asia to be “the central and controlling incident” of his life. As 2019 marks one hundred and fifty years since the publication of The Malay Archipelago, Wallace’s canonical work chronicling his epic voyage, this collaborative book gathers an interdisciplinary array of writers to celebrate Wallace’s remarkable life and diverse scholarly accomplishments. Wallace left school at the age of fourteen and was largely self-taught, a voracious curiosity and appetite for learning sustaining him throughout his long life. After years as a surveyor and builder, in 1848 he left Britain to become a professional natural history collector in the Amazon, where he spent four years. Then, in 1854, he departed for the Malay Archipelago. It was on this voyage that he constructed a theory of natural selection similar to the one Charles Darwin was developing, and the two copublished papers on the subject in 1858, some sixteen months before the release of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
But as the contributors to the Companion show, this much-discussed parallel evolution in thought was only one epoch in an extraordinary intellectual life. When Wallace returned to Britain in 1862, he commenced a career of writing on a huge range of subjects extending from evolutionary studies and biogeography to spiritualism and socialism. An Alfred Russel Wallace Companion provides something of a necessary reexamination of the full breadth of Wallace’s thought—an attempt to describe not only the history and present state of our understanding of his work, but also its implications for the future.
Clemence Royer was a 19th-century Frenchwoman probably best known for producing the first French translation of Charles Darwin. However, her efforts went much further, encompassing anthropology, physics, philosophy, cosmology, and chemistry. In this full-scale biography, Harvey, a science historian and former associate editor of Cambridge University's Darwin Correspondence Project, traces Royer's remarkable life.
A feminist who made lifelong enemies almost as readily as she made friends, Royer was never able to undertake formal, advanced education and was a product of her own self-study efforts. Only in her last few years was she formally recognized by several professional societies and awarded the French Legion of Honor. Harvey includes an overview of earlier biographical treatments, the text of an 1874 communication on "Women, Science, and the Birth Rate," and extensive notes.
John Muir and His Legacy is at once a biography of this remarkable man—the first work to make unrestricted use of all of Muir’s manuscripts and personal papers—and a history of the century-old fight to save the natural environment. Stephen Fox traces the conservation movement's diverse, colorful, and tumultuous history, from the successful campaign to establish Yosemite National Park in 1890 to the movement's present day concerns of nuclear waste and acid rain.
Conservation has run a cyclical course, Fox contends, from its origins in the 1890s when it was the province of amateurs, to its takeover by professionals with quasi-scientific notions, and back, in the 1960s to its original impetus. Since then man’s view of himself as “the last endangered species” has sparked an explosion of public interest in environmentalism.
First published in 1981 by Little, Brown, this book was warmly received as both a biography of Muir and a history of the American conservation movement. It is now available in this new Wisconsin paperback edition.
Alaska’s wolves lost their fiercest advocate, Gordon Haber, when his research plane crashed in Denali National Park in 2009. Passionate, tenacious, and occasionally brash, Haber, a former hockey player and park ranger, devoted his life to Denali’s wolves.
He weathered brutal temperatures in the wild to document the wolves and provided exceptional insights into wolf behavior. Haber’s writings and photographs reveal an astonishing degree of cooperation between wolf family members as they hunt, raise pups, and play, social behaviors and traditions previously unknown. With the wolves at risk of being destroyed by hunting and trapping, his studies advocated for a balanced approach to wolf management. His fieldwork registered as one of the longest studies in wildlife science and had a lasting impact on wolf policies.
Haber’s field notes, his extensive journals, and stories from friends all come together in Among Wolves to reveal much about both the wolves he studied and the researcher himself. Wolves continue to fascinate and polarize people, and Haber’s work continues to resonate.
Bear Man of Admiralty Island is the life story of a rugged loner and self-taught naturalist who came to southeastern Alaska in 1901 to seek his fortune in the awe-inspiring wilderness but found his destiny instead. In the process, this sturdy Midwesterner learned the skills of a prospector, fisherman, trapper, guide, boatbuilder, and homesteader. At all these things he eventually excelled, but his greatest fame came from his greatest skill: he was a peerless bear hunter. He joined several natural history expeditions and worked for about ten years as a specimen collector and guide. He later guided sportsmen and photographers interested in Southeastern's wildlife and majestic natural beauty. As his respect for the great brown bears increased, he lost his interest in killing them, and his experiences inspired conservationists who lobbied to protect Admiralty Island from logging. Hasselborg's keen wit, fierce independence, and eccentric ways attracted much attention during his lifetime. He was an extraordinary man who was in some ways a perfectly ordinary Alaskan of his time, and author Howe reflects on both sides of that character in a balanced, detailed way.
Natural history in the eighteenth century was many things to many people—diversion, obsession, medically or economically useful knowledge, spectacle, evidence for God’s providence and wisdom, or even the foundation of all natural knowledge. Because natural history was pursued by such a variety of people around the globe, with practitioners sharing neither methods nor training, it has been characterized as a science of straightforward description, devoted to amassing observations as the raw material for classification and thus fundamentally distinct from experimental physical science. In Catching Nature in the Act, Mary Terrall revises this picture, revealing how eighteenth-century natural historians incorporated various experimental techniques and strategies into their practice.
At the center of Terrall’s study is René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683–1757)—the definitive authority on natural history in the middle decades of the eighteenth century—and his many correspondents, assistants, and collaborators. Through a close examination of Réaumur’s publications, papers, and letters, Terrall reconstructs the working relationships among these naturalists and shows how observing, collecting, and experimenting fit into their daily lives. Essential reading for historians of science and early modern Europe, Catching Nature in the Act defines and excavates a dynamic field of francophone natural history that has been inadequately mined and understood to date.
Winner of the 2015John Burroughs Medal, the 2015 WILLA Award for Best Creative Nonfiction, and finalist for the 2015 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards
In the exploding world of citizen science, hundreds of thousands of volunteers are monitoring climate change, tracking bird migrations, finding stardust for NASA, and excavating mastodons. The sheer number of citizen scientists, combined with new technology, has begun to shape how research gets done. Non-professionals become acknowledged experts: dentists turn into astronomers and accountants into botanists.
Diary of a Citizen Scientist is a timely exploration of the phenomenon of citizen science, told through the lens of nature writer Sharman Apt Russell’s yearlong study of a little-known species, the Western red-bellied tiger beetle. In a voice both humorous and lyrical, Russell recounts her persistent and joyful tracking of an insect she calls “charismatic,” “elegant,” and “fierce.” Patrolling the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico, collector’s net in hand, she negotiates the realities of climate change even as she celebrates the beauty of a still-wild and rural landscape.
Russell’s self-awareness—of her occasionally-misplaced confidence, her quest to fill in “that blank spot on the map of tiger beetles,” and her desire to become newly engaged in her life—creates a portrait not only of the tiger beetle she tracks, but of the mindset behind self-driven scientific inquiry. Falling in love with the diversity of citizen science, she participates in crowdsourcing programs that range from cataloguing galaxies to monitoring the phenology of native plants, applauds the growing role of citizen science in environmental activism, and marvels at the profusion of projects around the world.
Diary of a Citizen Scientist offers its readers a glimpse into the transformative properties of citizen science—and documents the transformation of the field as a whole.
Codiscoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace should be recognized as one of the titans of Victorian science. Instead he has long been relegated to a secondary place behind Darwin. Worse, many scholars have overlooked or even mocked his significant contributions to other aspects of Victorian culture. With An Elusive Victorian, Martin Fichman provides the first comprehensive analytical study of Wallace's life and controversial intellectual career.
Fichman examines not only Wallace's scientific work as an evolutionary theorist and field naturalist but also his philosophical concerns, his involvement with theism, and his commitment to land nationalization and other sociopolitical reforms such as women's rights. As Fichman shows, Wallace worked throughout his life to integrate these humanistic and scientific interests. His goal: the development of an evolutionary cosmology, a unified vision of humanity's place in nature and society that he hoped would ensure the dignity of all individuals.
To reveal the many aspects of this compelling figure, Fichman not only reexamines Wallace's published works, but also probes the contents of his lesser known writings, unpublished correspondence, and copious annotations in books from his personal library. Rather than consider Wallace's science as distinct from his sociopolitical commitments, An Elusive Victorian assumes a mutually beneficial relationship between the two, one which shaped Wallace into one of the most memorable characters of his time. Fully situating Wallace's wide-ranging work in its historical and cultural context, Fichman's innovative and insightful account will interest historians of science, religion, and Victorian culture as well as biologists.
For the first time, the most important quotations of the great conservationist Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, are gathered in one volume. From conservation education to wildlife ecology, from wilderness protection to soil and water conservation, the writings of Aldo Leopold continue to have profound influence on those seeking to understand the earth and its care. Leopold biographer Curt Meine and noted conservation biologist Richard Knight have assembled this comprehensive collection of quotations from Leopold’s extensive and diverse writings, selected and organized to capture the richness and depth of the North American conservation movement.
Prominent biologists, conservationists, historians, and philosophers provide introductory commentaries describing Leopold’s contributions in varied fields and reflecting upon the significance of his work today.
J. Baird Callicott
Susan L. Flader
Eric T. Freyfogle
Paul W. Johnson
Joni L. Kinsey
Richard L. Knight
Gary K. Meffe
Gary Paul Nabhan
Bryan G. Norton
David W. Orr
Edwin P. Pister
Stanley A. Temple
Jack Ward Thomas
Terry Tempest Williams
Joy B. Zedler
“Stunning. . . . Read this book: in equal measure it will give you hope and trouble your dreams.”—Laura Dassow Walls, author of Henry David Thoreau: A Life and Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt’s Shaping of America
Georg Forster (1754–94) was in many ways self-taught and rarely had two cents to rub together, but he became one of the most dynamic figures of the Enlightenment: a brilliant writer, naturalist, explorer, illustrator, translator—and a revolutionary. Granted the extraordinary opportunity to sail around the world as part of Captain James Cook’s fabled crew, Forster touched icebergs, walked the beaches of Tahiti, visited far-flung foreign nations, lived with purported cannibals, and crossed oceans and the equator. Forster recounted the journey in his 1777 book A Voyage Round the World, a work of travel and science that not only established Forster as one of the most accomplished stylists of the time—and led some to credit him as the inventor of the literary travel narrative—but also influenced other German trailblazers of scientific and literary writing, most notably Alexander von Humboldt. A superb essayist, Forster made lasting contributions to our scientific—and especially botanical and ornithological—knowledge of the South Seas.
Having witnessed more egalitarian societies in the southern hemisphere, Forster returned after more than three years at sea to a monarchist Europe entering the era of revolution. When, following the French Revolution of 1789, French forces occupied the German city of Mainz, Forster became a leading political actor in the founding of the Republic of Mainz—the first democratic state on German soil.
In an age of Kantian reason, Forster privileged experience. He claimed a deep connection between nature and reason, nature and politics, nature and revolution. His politics was radical in its understanding of revolution as a natural phenomenon, and in this often overlooked way his many facets—as voyager, naturalist, and revolutionary—were intertwined.
Yet, in the constellation of the Enlightenment’s trailblazing naturalists, scientists, political thinkers, and writers, Forster’s star remains relatively dim today: the Republic of Mainz was crushed, and Forster died in exile in Paris. This book is the source of illumination that Forster’s journey so greatly deserves. Tracing the arc of this unheralded polymath’s short life, Georg Forster explores both his contributions to literature and science and the enduring relationship between nature and politics that threaded through his extraordinary four decades.
“Everyone who is interested in the ivory-billed woodpecker will want to read this book—from scientists who wish to examine the data from all the places Tanner explored to the average person who just wants to read a compelling story.”
—Tim Gallagher, author of The Grail Bird: The Rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
In 1935 naturalist James T. Tanner was a twenty-one-year-old graduate student when he saw his first ivory-billed woodpecker, one of America’s Istudent when he saw his first ivory-billed woodpecker, one of America’s rarest birds, in a remote swamp in northern Louisiana. At the time, he rarest birds, in a remote swamp in northern Louisiana. At the time, he was part of an ambitious expedition traveling across the country to record and photograph as many avian species as possible, a trip organized by Dr. Arthur Allen, founder of the famed Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Two years later, Tanner hit the road again, this time by himself and in search of only one species—that ever-elusive ivory-bill. Sponsored by Cornell and the Audubon Society, Jim Tanner’s work would result in some of the most extensive field research ever conducted on the magnificent woodpecker.
Drawing on Tanner’s personal journals and written with the cooperation of his widow, Nancy, Ghost Birds recounts, in fascinating detail, the scientist’s
dogged quest for the ivory-bill as he chased down leads in eight southern states. With Stephen Lyn Bales as our guide, we experience the same awe and excitement that Tanner felt when he returned to the Louisiana wetland he had visited earlier and was able to observe and document several of the “ghost birds”—including a nestling that he handled, banded, and photographed at close range. Investigating the ivory-bill was particularly urgent because it was a fast-vanishing species, the victim of indiscriminant specimen hunting and widespread logging that was destroying its habitat. As sightings became rarer and rarer in the decades following Tanner’s remarkable research, the bird was feared to have become extinct. Since 2005, reports of sightings in Arkansas and Florida made headlines and have given new hope to ornithologists and bird lovers, although extensive subsequent investigations have yet to produce definitive confirmation.
Before he died in 1991, Jim Tanner himself had come to believe that the majestic woodpeckers were probably gone forever, but he remained hopeful
that someone would prove him wrong. This book fully captures Tanner’s determined spirit as he tracked down what was then, as now, one of ornithology’s true Holy Grails.
STEPHEN LYN BALES is a naturalist at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville,
Tennessee. He is the author of Natural Histories, published by UT Press in 2007.
Henry David Thoreau: A Life
Laura Dassow Walls University of Chicago Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3053.W28 2017 | Dewey Decimal 818.309
“Walden. Yesterday I came here to live.” That entry from the journal of Henry David Thoreau, and the intellectual journey it began, would by themselves be enough to place Thoreau in the American pantheon. His attempt to “live deliberately” in a small woods at the edge of his hometown of Concord has been a touchstone for individualists and seekers since the publication of Walden in 1854.
But there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Many books have taken up various aspects of Thoreau’s character and achievements, but, as Laura Dassow Walls writes, “Thoreau has never been captured between covers; he was too quixotic, mischievous, many-sided.” Two hundred years after his birth, and two generations after the last full-scale biography, Walls restores Henry David Thoreau to us in all his profound, inspiring complexity.
Walls traces the full arc of Thoreau’s life, from his early days in the intellectual hothouse of Concord, when the American experiment still felt fresh and precarious, and “America was a family affair, earned by one generation and about to pass to the next.” By the time he died in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, Thoreau had witnessed the transformation of his world from a community of farmers and artisans into a bustling, interconnected commercial nation. What did that portend for the contemplative individual and abundant, wild nature that Thoreau celebrated?
Drawing on Thoreau’s copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.
“The Thoreau I sought was not in any book, so I wrote this one,” says Walls. The result is a Thoreau unlike any seen since he walked the streets of Concord, a Thoreau for our time and all time.
During the Victorian period, the practice of science shifted from a religious context to a naturalistic one. It is generally assumed that this shift occurred because naturalistic science was distinct from and superior to theistic science. Yet as Huxley’s Church and Maxwell’s Demon reveals, most of the methodological values underlying scientific practice were virtually identical for the theists and the naturalists: each agreed on the importance of the uniformity of natural laws, the use of hypothesis and theory, the moral value of science, and intellectual freedom. But if scientific naturalism did not rise to dominance because of its methodological superiority, then how did it triumph?
Matthew Stanley explores the overlap and shift between theistic and naturalistic science through a parallel study of two major scientific figures: James Clerk Maxwell, a devout Christian physicist, and Thomas Henry Huxley, the iconoclast biologist who coined the word agnostic. Both were deeply engaged in the methodological, institutional, and political issues that were crucial to the theistic-naturalistic transformation. What Stanley’s analysis of these figures reveals is that the scientific naturalists executed a number of strategies over a generation to gain control of the institutions of scientific education and to reimagine the history of their discipline. Rather than a sudden revolution, the similarity between theistic and naturalistic science allowed for a relatively smooth transition in practice from the old guard to the new.
I Have Landed
Stephen Jay Gould Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress QH81.G6732 2011 | Dewey Decimal 508
Gould’s final essay collection is based on his remarkable series for Natural History magazine—exactly 300 consecutive essays, with never a month missed, published from 1974 to 2001. Both an intellectually thrilling journey into the nature of scientific discovery and the most personal book he ever published.
Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817–1911) was an internationally renowned botanist, a close friend and early supporter of Charles Darwin, and one of the first—and most successful—British men of science to become a full-time professional. He was also, Jim Endersby argues, the perfect embodiment of Victorian science. A vivid picture of the complex interrelationships of scientific work and scientific ideas, Imperial Nature gracefully uses one individual’s career to illustrate the changing world of science in the Victorian era.
By analyzing Hooker’s career, Endersby offers vivid insights into the everyday activities of nineteenth-century naturalists, considering matters as diverse as botanical illustration and microscopy, classification, and specimen transportation and storage, to reveal what they actually did, how they earned a living, and what drove their scientific theories. What emerges is a rare glimpse of Victorian scientific practices in action. By focusing on science’s material practices and one of its foremost practitioners, Endersby ably links concerns about empire, professionalism, and philosophical practices to the forging of a nineteenth-century scientific identity.
This entertaining collection of essays from professional scientists and naturalists provides an enlightening look at the lives of field biologists with a passion for the hidden world of nocturnal wildlife. Into the Night explores the harrowing, fascinating, amusing, and largely unheard personal experiences of scientists willing to forsake the safety of daylight to document the natural history of these uniquely adapted animals.
Contributors tell of confronting North American bears, cougars, and rattlesnakes; suffering red ctenid spider bites in the tropical rain forest; swimming through layers of feeding-frenzied hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos; evading the wrath of African bull elephants in South Africa; and delighting in the curious and gentle nature of foxes and unconditional acceptance by a family of owls. They describe “fire in the sky” across a treeless tundra, a sea ablaze with bioluminescent algae, nighttime earthquakes on the Pacific Rim, and hurricanes and erupting volcanoes on a Caribbean island.
Into the Night reveals rare and unexpected insights into nocturnal field research, illuminating experiences, discoveries, and challenges faced by intrepid biologists studying nature’s nightly marvels across the globe. This volume will be of interest to scientists and general readers alike.
Imagine a place dedicated to the long-term study of nature in nature, a permanent biological field station, a teaching and research laboratory that promotes complete immersion in the natural world. Lakeside Laboratory, founded on the shore of Lake Okoboji in northwestern Iowa in 1909, is just such a place. In this remarkable and insightful book, Michael Lannoo sets the story of Lakeside Lab within the larger story of the primacy of fieldwork, the emergence of conservation biology, and the ability of field stations to address such growing problems as pollution, disease, habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change.
At the intersection of major ecosystems with distinct plant and animal communities and surrounded by what, ironically, may be the most intensely cultivated landscape on earth, Lakeside has a long history of rubber-boot biologists saturated in the spirit that grounds the new discipline of conservation biology, and Lannoo brings this history to life with his descriptions of the people and ideas that shaped it. Lakeside’s continuing commitment to bringing the laboratory to the field rather than bringing the field to the lab has supported a focus on mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate biology, parasitology, limnology, and algology, subjects rarely taught now on university campuses but crucial to the planet’s health.
Today’s huge array of environmental problems can best be solved by people who have learned about nature within nature at a place with a long history of research and observation, people who thoroughly understand and appreciate nature’s cogs and wheels. Lakeside Lab and biological research stations like it have never been more relevant to science and to society at large than they are today. Michael Lannoo convinces us that while Lakeside’s past is commendable, its future, grounded in ecological principles, will help shape a more sustainable society.
When the wounded bear he faced on a mountain ledge that day turned aside, James Curwood felt that he had been spared. From this encounter he became an avid conservationist. He wrote relentlessly—magazine stories and books and then for the new medium of motion pictures. Like many authors of his time, he was actively involved in movie-making until the plight of the forests and wildlife in his home state of Michigan turned his energies toward conservation.
A man ahead of his time, and quickly forgotten after his death in 1927, his gift of himself to his readers and to nature has finally come to be appreciated again two generations later.
John Muir Sierra
Robert E. Engberg University of Wisconsin Press, 1984 Library of Congress QH105.C2M797 1984 | Dewey Decimal 508.7944
"This is a collection of articles written by the pioneering naturalist for the San Francisco Evening Bulletin in 1874 and 1875. . . . In the course of his wanderings we hear Muir grow from a student of the wilderness to its professor and protector."—Sierra Magazine
When John Muir died in 1914, the pre-eminent American naturalist, explorer, and conservationist had not yet written the second volume of his autobiography, in which he planned to cover his Yosemite years. Editors Robert Engberg and Donald Wesling have here provided a remedy.
Their account begins in 1863, the year Muir left the University of Wisconsin for what he termed the "University of the Wilderness." Following an accident in 1867 that nearly left him blind, he vowed to turn from machines and continue to study nature. That led, in 1868, to his first visit to Yosemite Valley, where he began his glacier studies. Muir spent much time exploring the Yosemite region, Tuolumne, and both the southern and northern Sierras, publishing articles, and keeping extensive journals through 1875, when he began to write for the San Francisco Bulletin and expanded his travels to areas throughout the west.
Mining a rich vein of sources—Muir’s letters, journals, articles, and unpublished manuscripts, as well as selections drawn from biographical pieces written about Muir by people who met him in Yosemite in the early 1870s—Engberg and Wesling have assembled what they term a "composite autobiography," providing brief interpretive and transitional passages throughout the book. This work is especially valuable because it documents Muir’s formative years, when he is maturing away from "conventional cultural paradigms of work and materialism toward new ways of thinking about nature and its impact on human development."
John Muir, America’s pioneer conservationist and father of the national park system, was a man of considerable literary talent. As he explored the wilderness of the western part of the United States for decades, he carried notebooks with him, narrating his wanderings, describing what he saw, and recording his scientific researches. This reprint of his journals, edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe in 1938 and long out of print, offers an intimate picture of Muir and his activities during a long and productive period of his life.
The sixty extant journals and numerous notes in this volume were written from 1867 to 1911. They start seven years after the time covered in The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, Muir’s uncompleted autobiography. The earlier journals capture the essence of the Sierra Nevada and Alaska landscapes. The changing appearance of the Sierras from Sequoia north and beyond the Yosemites enthralled Muir, and the first four years of the journals reveal his dominating concern with glacial action. The later notebooks reflect his changes over the years, showing a mellowing of spirit and a deep concern for human rights.
Like all his writings, the journals concentrate on his observations in the wilderness. His devotion to his family, his many warm friendships, and his many-sided public life are hardly mentioned. Very little is said about the quarter-century battle for national parks and forest reserves. The notebooks record, in language fuller and freer than his more formal writings, the depth of his love and transcendental feeling for the wilderness. The rich heritage of his native Scotland and the unconscious music of the poetry of Burns, Milton, and the King James Bible permeate the language of his poetic fancy.
In his later life, Muir attempted to sort out these journals and, at the request of friends, published a few extracts. A year after his death in 1914, his literary executor and biographer, William Frederick Badè, also published episodes from the journals. Linnie Marsh Wolfe set out to salvage the best of his writings still left unpublished in 1938 and has thus added to our understanding of the life and thought of a complex and fascinating American figure.
“John Wesley Powell: explorer, writer, geologist, anthropologist, land planner, bureaucrat. Which one do we focus on?” This is the question author James M. Aton poses at the beginning of his biography of Powell, though he soon decides that it is impossible to ignore any facet of Powell’s life. Powell was a polymath, one whose “divergent interests resemble one of those braided streambeds in his beloved canyon country, branching out in many directions, but ultimately beginning and ending in the same stream."
Aton beautifully tells the multidimensional stories of Powell’s childhood, his military and teaching careers, his famous and exciting explorations of the Colorado River, and the battles he waged from his influential positions within the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnology and the United States Geological Survey. This new edition of John Wesley Powell: His Life and Legacy, first printed as an issue of the Boise State University Western Writers Series, includes the original biography, but also features Aton’s new interpretations of Powell’s writings on exploration, land-planning, anthropology, and irrigation, and incorporates the author’s distinguished faculty lecture on Powell and cash-register dams in the Colorado River Basin.
John Xántus was a bit of a charlatan; of that there is little doubt. He lied about his exploits, joined the U.S. Army under an assumed name, and managed to alienate most of the people he met. Yet this Hungarian immigrant became one of the Smithsonian Institution’s most successful collectors of natural history specimens in the mid-nineteenth century, and he is credited with the discovery of many new species in the American West.
From his station at Ft. Tejon in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, Xántus carried on a lengthy correspondence with Spencer Baird at the Smithsonian, to whom he shipped the specimens he had trapped or shot in the surrounding sierra and deserts. A prolific letter writer, Xántus faithfully reported his findings as he bemoaned his circumstances and worried about his future.
Working from Smithsonian archives, natural history writer Ann Zwinger has assembled Xántus’s unpublished letters into a book that documents his trials and triumphs in the field and reveals much about his dubious character. The letters also bring to life a time and place on the western frontier from which Xántus was able to observe a broad panorama of American history in the making.
Zwinger’s lively introduction sets the stage for Xántus’s correspondence and examines the apparent contradictions between the man’s personal and professional lives. Her detailed notes to the letters further clarify his discoveries and shed additional light on his checkered career.
Joseph Banks: A Life
Patrick O'Brian University of Chicago Press, 1997 Library of Congress QH31.B19O27 1997 | Dewey Decimal 508.42092
One of our greatest writers about the sea has written an engrossing story of one of history's most legendary maritime explorers. Patrick O'Brian's biography of naturalist, explorer and co-founder of Australia, Joseph Banks, is narrative history at its finest. Published to rave reviews, it reveals Banks to be a man of enduring importance, and establishes itself as a classic of exploration.
"It is in his description of that arduous three-year voyage [on the ship Endeavor] that Mr. O'Brian is at his most brilliant. . . . He makes us understand what life within this wooden world was like, with its 94 male souls, two dogs, a cat and a goat."—Linda Colley, New York Times
"An absorbing, finely written overview, meant for the general reader, of a major figure in the history of natural science."—Frank Stewart, Los Angeles Times
"[This book is] the definitive biography of an extraordinary subject."—Robert Taylor, Boston Globe
"His skill at narrative and his extensive knowledge of the maritime history . . . give him a definite leg up in telling this . . . story."—Tom Clark, San Francisco Chronicle
Letters From Alaska
John Muir University of Alaska Press, 2009 Library of Congress QH31.M9A3 2009 | Dewey Decimal 917.98043
John Muir (1838–1914), founder of the Sierra Club, was one of the most famous and influential environmental conservationists of all time. From 1879 to 1880 Muir traveled the waters of southeastern Alaska in a Tlingit Indian dugout canoe and reported his encounters in a series of letters published in the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin. Collected here are Muir’s original letters, bearing the immediacy and candor of his best work and providing a rare account of southeastern Alaska history, alongside breathtaking observations of glaciers and the untamed landscape. Through Muir we encounter gold miners, rogue towns, Taku Inlet, Glacier Bay, profiles of Tlingit Indians, and the infancy of the tourist industry. This collection of work by one of America’s foremost naturalists provides a magnificent look into early conservationist thought and one individual’s encounter with nature.
Life of Henry David Thoreau
Henry S. SaltEdited by George Hendrick, Willene Hendrick, and Fritz Oehlschlaeger University of Illinois Press, 1993 Library of Congress PS3053.S3 1993 | Dewey Decimal 818.309
No Englishman did more in the nineteenth century to advance the literary reputation of Henry David Thoreau than Henry S. Salt. A biographer and literary critic as well as a remarkable reformer who participated broadly in his era's movements for social change, Salt abandoned his mastership at Eton in the 1880s to devote himself to causes including socialism, vegetarianism, animals' rights, conservation, and prison reform.
In 1890 Salt published the initial version of Thoreau's Life. With the help of American friends, he revised the book and published it anew six years later. The present volume is the third version of the biography, completed in 1908 but never published in Salt's lifetime.
Combining a concise narrative of Thoreau's life with a perceptive treatment of his ideas and writings, it stands as a penetrating study of Thoreau, stressing his distinctive individuality. Through an astute analysis of the text and a concise biography, the editors illustrate Salt's growth as a scholar and his changing views on Thoreau and Thoreau's philosophy.
Born on the same day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were true contemporaries. Though shaped by vastly different environments, they had remarkably similar values, purposes, and approaches. In this exciting new study, James Lander places these two iconic men side by side and reveals the parallel views they shared of man and God.
While Lincoln is renowned for his oratorical prowess and for the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as many other accomplishments, his scientific and technological interests are not widely recognized; for example, many Americans do not know that Lincoln is the only U.S. president to obtain a patent. Darwin, on the other hand, is celebrated for his scientific achievements but not for his passionate commitment to the abolition of slavery, which in part drove his research in evolution. Both men took great pains to avoid causing unnecessary offense despite having abandoned traditional Christianity. Each had one main adversary who endorsed scientific racism: Lincoln had Stephen A. Douglas, and Darwin had Louis Agassiz.
With graceful and sophisticated writing, Lander expands on these commonalities and uncovers more shared connections to people, politics, and events. He traces how these two intellectual giants came to hold remarkably similar perspectives on the evils of racism, the value of science, and the uncertainties of conventional religion.
Separated by an ocean but joined in their ideas, Lincoln and Darwin acted as trailblazers, leading their societies toward greater freedom of thought and a greater acceptance of human equality. This fascinating biographical examination brings the mid-nineteenth-century discourse about race, science, and humanitarian sensibility to the forefront using the mutual interests and pursuits of these two historic figures.
A Yale-educated Renaissance man, S. Dillon Ripley was a “courtly, determined, hugely ambitious, energetic, funny, and colorful ornithologist, conservationist, and cultural standard-bearer” who led the Smithsonian Institution for twenty years, during its greatest period of growth. During his watch, from 1964 to 1984, the SI added eight new museums and seven new research centers and began publication of the Smithsonian magazine. It was Ripley’s vision that transformed “the nation’s attic” from a dusty archive to a vibrant educational and cultural institution, just as he had transformed Yale’s Peabody museum before it. Prior to his career at the SI, and running parallel with it for the rest of his life, was Ripley’s work as an ornithologist, begun in New Guinea in the 1930s, continued through his PhD from Harvard in 1943, and culminating in his landmark thirty-year project documenting the bird life of India. His lifelong passion for ornithology led him to positions of leadership in worldwide nature conservation. In the midst of these endeavors he was recruited in 1944 to the Office of Strategic Services, a Yalie club at the outset that became the forerunner of the modern CIA. Posted to Ceylon, he recruited and ran agents who reported from and infiltrated Japanese-held Southeast Asia. Roger D. Stone worked with Ripley on the board of the World Wildlife Fund. He has access to the Ripley family’s archives and photos, as well as to the voluminous archives at the Smithsonian and the National Archives, and to over forty hours of transcribed interviews, conducted with Ripley at the Smithsonian.
In this second book in his Scratch Flat Chronicles, John Hanson Mitchell tells how he set out to recreate Henry David Thoreau’s two years at Walden Pond in a replica of Thoreau’s cabin. Mitchell lived off the grid, without running water or electricity, in a tiny house not half a mile from a major highway and in the shadow of a massive new computer company. Nevertheless, his contact with wildlife, the changing seasons, and the natural world equaled and even surpassed Thoreau’s. Hugely popular with the international community of Thoreau followers when it was first published, this book will now be essential reading for the growing community of people who are interested in living in a tiny house, fully experiencing the natural world, or finding self-sufficiency in an increasingly plugged-in society.
First published in 1974 as a companion volume to Darwin on Man by Howard E. Gruber, Paul Barrett’s transcriptions of Darwin’s M and N notebooks served to shed new light on the evolutionist’s methods and motivation.
According to Stephen Jay Gould in the New York Times Book Review, “Darwin kept [these notebooks] primarily in 1838, when he was 29 years old. In them, he recorded his early conviction of evolutionary continuity between humans and all other animals. . . . These notebooks display all the features of humanistic intellect that his detractors denied. We find erudition in his comments on Plato, Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Whewell, Burke, Montaigne, Lessing and Spencer. . . . We appreciate an artistic bent in his delight with nature and her prophet Wordsworth. . . . We grasp the breadth of his bold attempt to clothe all human thought and behaviour in a new evolutionary garb. . . . Charles Darwin was reconstructing the world and he knew exactly what he was doing.”
Mice in the Freezer, Owls on the Porch is in many ways a love story—about a quiet scientist and his flamboyant wife, but also about their passions for hunting, for wild lands, and for the grouse and raptor species that they were instrumental in saving from destruction.
From the papers and letters of Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom, the reminiscences of contemporaries, and her own long friendship with this extraordinary couple who were her neighbors, Helen Corneli draws an intimate picture of Fran and "Hammy" from childhood through the genesis and maturation of a romantic, creative, and scientific relationship. Following the Hamerstroms as they give up a life of sophisticated convention and comfort for the more "civilized" (as Aldo Leopold would have it) pleasures of living and conducting on-the-spot research into diminishing species, Corneli captures the spirit of the Hamerstroms, their profession, and the natural and human environments in which they worked. A nuanced account of the labors, adventures, and achievements that distinguished the Hamerstroms over the years—and that inspired a generation of naturalists—this book also provides a dramatic account of conservation history over the course of the twentieth century, particularly in Wisconsin during the eventful years from the 1920s through the 1970s.
The Monkey and the Inkpot
Carla Nappi Harvard University Press, 2009 Library of Congress QH21.C6N37 2009 | Dewey Decimal 508.0951
This is the story of a Chinese doctor, his book, and the creatures that danced within its pages. The Monkey and the Inkpot introduces natural history in sixteenth-century China through the iconic Bencao gangmu (Systematic materia medica) of Li Shizhen (1518 - 1593). In the first book-length study in English of Li's text, Carla Nappi reveals a "cabinet of curiosities" of gems, beasts, and oddities whose author was devoted to using natural history to guide the application of natural and artificial objects as medical drugs.
Edward O. Wilson Island Press, 1994 Library of Congress QH31.W64A3 2006 | Dewey Decimal 508.092
Edward O. Wilson -- University Professor at Harvard, winner of two Pulitzer prizes, eloquent champion of biodiversity -- is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. His career represents both a blueprint and a challenge to those who seek to explore the frontiers of scientific understanding. Yet, until now, little has been told of his life and of the important events that have shaped his thought.In Naturalist, Wilson describes for the first time both his growth as a scientist and the evolution of the science he has helped define. He traces the trajectory of his life -- from a childhood spent exploring the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida to life as a tenured professor at Harvard -- detailing how his youthful fascination with nature blossomed into a lifelong calling. He recounts with drama and wit the adventures of his days as a student at the University of Alabama and his four decades at Harvard University, where he has achieved renown as both teacher and researcher.As the narrative of Wilson's life unfolds, the reader is treated to an inside look at the origin and development of ideas that guide today's biological research. Theories that are now widely accepted in the scientific world were once untested hypotheses emerging from one mans's broad-gauged studies. Throughout Naturalist, we see Wilson's mind and energies constantly striving to help establish many of the central principles of the field of evolutionary biology.The story of Wilson's life provides fascinating insights into the making of a scientist, and a valuable look at some of the most thought-provoking ideas of our time.
It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of big environmental challenges—but we need inspiration more than ever. With political leaders who deny climate change, species that are fighting for their very survival, and the planet’s last places of wilderness growing smaller and smaller, what can a single person do? In Nature’s Allies, Larry Nielsen uses the stories of conservation pioneers to show that through passion and perseverance, we can each be a positive force for change.
In eight engaging and diverse biographies—John Muir, Ding Darling, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Chico Mendes, Billy Frank Jr., Wangari Maathai, and Gro Harlem Brundtland—we meet individuals who have little in common except that they all made a lasting mark on our world. Some famous and some little known to readers, they spoke out to protect wilderness, wildlife, fisheries, rainforests, and wetlands. They fought for social justice and exposed polluting practices. They marched, wrote books, testified before Congress, performed acts of civil disobedience, and, in one case, were martyred for their defense of nature. Nature’s Allies pays tribute to them all as it rallies a new generation of conservationists to follow in their footsteps.
These vivid biographies are essential reading for anyone who wants to fight for the environment against today’s political opposition. Nature’s Allies will inspire students, conservationists, and nature lovers to speak up for nature and show the power of one person to make a difference.
In No Man's Garden, ecologist Daniel Botkin takes a fresh look at the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau to discover a model for reconciling the conflict between nature and civilization that lies at the heart of our environmental problems. He offers an insightful reinterpretation of Thoreau, drawing a surprising picture of the “hermit of Walden” as a man who loved wildness, but who found it in the woods and swamps on the outskirts of town as easily as in the remote forests of Maine, and who firmly believed in the value and importance of human beings and civilization.Botkin integrates into the familiar image of Thoreau, the solitary seeker, other, equally important aspects of his personality and career -- as a first-rate ecologist whose close, long-term observation of his surroundings shows the value of using a scientific approach, as an engineer who was comfortable working out technical problems in his father's pencil factory, and as someone who was deeply concerned about the spiritual importance of nature to people.This new view of one of the founding fathers of American environmental thought lays the groundwork for an innovative approach to solving environmental problems. Botkin argues that the topics typically thought of as “environmental,” and the issues and concerns of “environmentalism,” are in fact rooted in some of humanity's deepest concerns -- our fundamental physical and spiritual connection with nature, and the mutually beneficial ways that society and nature can persist together. He makes the case that by understanding the true scientific, philosophical, and spiritual bases of environmental positions we will be able to develop a means of preserving the health of our biosphere that simultaneously allows for the further growth and development of civilization.No Man's Garden presents a vital challenge to the assumptions and conventional wisdom of environmentalism, and will be must reading for anyone interested in developing a deeper understanding of interactions between humans and nature.
Robert Kohler shows exactly how entrepreneurial academic scientists became intimate "partners in science" with the officers of the large foundations created by John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, and in so doing tells a fascinating story of how the modern system of grant-getting and grant-giving evolved, and how this funding process has changed the way laboratory scientists make their careers and do their work.
"This book is a rich historical tapestry of people, institutions and scientific ideas. It will stand for a long time as a source of precise and detailed information about an important aspect of the scientific enterprise. . .It also contains many valuable lessons for the coming years."—John Ziman, Times Higher Education Supplement
The Pathless Way
Michael Cohen University of Wisconsin Press, 1986 Library of Congress QH31.M9C64 1984 | Dewey Decimal 333.720924
"A tour de force, a remarkable narrative of spiritual and political development. . . . [Cohen's] oft unanswered, and unanswerable, questions, his views of Muir's spiritual, intellectual, and political growth are insightful, challenging, and new. They deserve an audience with scholars and Muir devotees."—Shirley Sargent, Pacific Historian
In this powerful study, Michael Cohen captures as never before the powerful consciousness, vision, and legacy of the pioneering environmentalist John Muir. Ultimately, Cohen stresses, this ecological consciousness would generate an ecological conscience.
It was no longer enough for Muir to individually test and celebrate his enlightenment in the wild. His vision, he now felt, must lead to concrete action, and the result was a protracted campaign that stressed the ecological education of the American public, governmental protection of natural resources, the establishment of the National Parks, and the encouragement of tourism.
Anyone interested in environmental studies, in American history and literature, or in the future of our natural heritage will be drawn by the very bracing flavor of his wilderness odyssey, evoked here by one of his own—a twentieth-century mountaineer and literary craftsman.
Persian Diary, 1939-1941
Walter N. Koelz University of Michigan Press, 1983 Library of Congress GN2.M5 no. 71 | Dewey Decimal 955.03
Naturalist and zoologist Walter Koelz traveled to Iran on a project of plant exploration (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) from late 1939 to early 1941. With him were three companions: Rup Chand, Wangyel, and Rinchen Gialtsen. Together they brought back 3000 seed samples, 4000 herbarium specimens, and a collection of bird skins. Koelz’s diary of that journey is presented in this volume, with an introduction by Henry T. Wright. Includes dozens of black and white photos.
Pilgrims To The Wild
John P O'Grady University of Utah Press, 1993 Library of Congress PS163.O18 1993 | Dewey Decimal 818.08
Pilgrims to the Wild is a survey of American writers who have responded to their encounters with the natural world. Ranging in its treatment from Thoreau’s important but neglected essay, 'Walking,' to the exuberant letters of the young artist Everett Ruess (who disappeared in the Escalante canyonlands), this is a broadly based exploration that brings to bear Eastern and Western classical philosophy, as well as contemporary critical theory, on a distinctive tradition of American Writing—those works concerned with the human relationship to the nonhuman world.
In addition to offering a fresh interpretation of classic authors such a Thoreau and Muir, this book introduces readers to the less widely known but equally fascinating writers Clarence King and Mary Austin.
A companion volume to Environmental Conflict in Alaska, Pioneering Conservation in Alaska chronicles the central land and wildlife issues and the growth of environmental conservation in Alaska during its Russian and territorial eras.
The Alaskan frontier tempted fur traders, whalers, salmon fishers, gold miners, hunters, and oilmen to take what they could without regard for long-term consequences. Wildlife species, ecosystems, and Native cultures suffered, sometimes irreparably. Damage to wildlife and lands drew the attention of environmentalists, including John Muir, who applied their influence to enact wildlife protection laws and set aside lands for conservation. Alaska served as a testing ground for emergent national resource policy in the United States, as environmental values of species and ecosystem sustainability replaced the unrestrained exploitation of Alaska's early frontier days.
Efforts of conservation leaders and the territory's isolation, small human population, and late development prevented widespread destruction and gave Americans a unique opportunity to protect some of the world's most pristine wilderness.
Enhanced by more than 100 photographs, Pioneering Conservation in Alaska illustrates the historical precedents for current natural resource disputes in Alaska and will fascinate readers interested in wildlife and conservation.
Winner of the 2000 American Studies Network Prize and the Literature and Language Award from the Association of American Publishers, Inc.
Early American naturalists assembled dazzling collections of native flora and fauna, from John Bartram’s botanical garden in Philadelphia and the artful display of animals in Charles Willson Peale’s museum to P. T. Barnum’s American Museum, infamously characterized by Henry James as “halls of humbug.” Yet physical collections were only one of the myriad ways that these naturalists captured, catalogued, and commemorated America’s rich biodiversity. They also turned to writing and art, from John Edward Holbrook’s forays into the fascinating world of herpetology to John James Audubon’s masterful portraits of American birds.
In this groundbreaking, now classic book, Christoph Irmscher argues that early American natural historians developed a distinctly poetic sensibility that allowed them to imagine themselves as part of, and not apart from, their environment. He also demonstrates what happens to such inclusiveness in the hands of Harvard scientist-turned Amazonian explorer Louis Agassiz, whose racist pseudoscience appalled his student William James.
This expanded, full-color edition of The Poetics of Natural History features a preface and art from award-winning artist Rosamond Purcell and invites the reader to be fully immersed in an era when the boundaries between literature, art, and science became fluid.
The Poetics of Natural History is about the “daydreams” of early American naturalists (from 1730 to 1868) and the collections they created around these dreams. Christoph Irmscher explores how, through the acts of organizing physical artifacts and reflecting upon their collections through writings and images, naturalists from John Bartram to Louis Agassiz were making sense of themselves and their world. These collections allowed them, in a way, to collect themselves.
In the first part of his book, Irmscher offers us a guided tour of the actual collections, beginning in Bartram’s disorderly botanical garden in Philadelphia and taking us through the artful display of animals in Charles Wilson Peale’s collections and, finally, to the “halls of humbug” of P. T. Barnum’s American Museum. The second part of the book moves away from the collections, and explores natural history words and images. Irmscher unforgettably describes American collectors’ fascination and horror with the American rattlesnake, and invokes the violent and beautiful world of American birds as described in John James Audubon’s paintings and writings. His book ends with a description of Louis Agassiz’s 1865 expedition to Brazil as seen through the eyes of the young William James, who reluctantly gathered Brazilian fish while his mentor assembled “proof” that some human beings were less human than others.
Reading the Shape of Nature vividly recounts the turbulent early history of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard and the contrasting careers of its founder Louis Agassiz and his son Alexander. Through the story of this institution and the individuals who formed it, Mary P. Winsor explores the conflicting forces that shaped systematics in the second half of the nineteenth century. Debates over the philosophical foundations of classification, details of taxonomic research, the young institution's financial struggles, and the personalities of the men most deeply involved are all brought to life.
In 1859, Louis Agassiz established the Museum of Comparative Zoology to house research on the ideal types that he believed were embodied in all living forms. Agassiz's vision arose from his insistence that the order inherent in the diversity of life reflected divine creation, not organic evolution. But the mortar of the new museum had scarcely dried when Darwin's Origin was published. By Louis Agassiz's death in 1873, even his former students, including his son Alexander, had defected to the evolutionist camp. Alexander, a self-made millionaire, succeeded his father as director and introduced a significantly different agenda for the museum.
To trace Louis and Alexander's arguments and the style of science they established at the museum, Winsor uses many fascinating examples that even zoologists may find unfamiliar. The locus of all this activity, the museum building itself, tells its own story through a wonderful series of archival photographs.
In the mid-1850s, no scientist in the British Empire was more visible than Richard Owen. Mentioned in the same breath as Isaac Newton and championed as Britain’s answer to France’s Georges Cuvier and Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt, Owen was, as the Times declared in 1856, the most “distinguished man of science in the country.” But, a century and a half later, Owen remains largely obscured by the shadow of the most famous Victorian naturalist of all, Charles Darwin. Publicly marginalized by his contemporaries for his critique of natural selection, Owen suffered personal attacks that undermined his credibility long after his name faded from history.
With this innovative biography, Nicolaas A. Rupke resuscitates Owen’s reputation. Arguing that Owen should no longer be judged by the evolution dispute that figured in only a minor part of his work, Rupke stresses context, emphasizing the importance of places and practices in the production and reception of scientific knowledge. Dovetailing with the recent resurgence of interest in Owen’s life and work, Rupke’s book brings the forgotten naturalist back into the canon of the history of science and demonstrates how much biology existed with, and without, Darwin
The author of The Desert, the book that made the American landscape accessible to the mainstream mind, was much less like his fellow environmental prophets John Muir and Henry David Thoreau than he would have had us believe. Van Dyke claimed to have wandered "alone on horseback for thousands of miles through the American Southwest and northern Mexico," as readers of The Desert—now in the millions since the book was published in 1901—were told. He did not. In The Secret Life of John C. Van Dyke, Teague and Wild unmask the desert saint with Van Dyke’s own recently discovered letters. These letters depict a privileged, patrician, and pampered member of the upper-class. His incriminating correspondence reveals that he saw most of the desert from plush railroad cars and grand hotel rooms. In the introduction, the editors clear up many misconceptions scholars currently hold about Van Dyke’s ecological principles, about his outdoorsmanship, and about his trip through the desert itself. As the centennial of the publication of The Desert approaches, this lively collection of letters helps set the record straight. The John C. Van Dyke unveiled in The Secret Life is a more varied character than we had supposed—still worthy of much admiration for his remarkable accomplishments, but still mysterious, and not the man we thought him to be.
Seven Summers is the story of a naturalist-turned-professor who flees city life each summer with her pets and power tools to pursue her lifelong dream—building a cabin in the Wyoming woods. With little money and even less experience, she learns that creating a sanctuary on her mountain meadow requires ample doses of faith, patience, and luck. This mighty task also involves a gradual and sometimes painful acquisition of flexibility and humility in the midst of great determination and naive enthusiasm.
For Corbett, homesteading is not about wresting a living from the land, but respecting and immersing herself in it—observing owls and cranes, witnessing seasons and cycles, and learning the rhythms of wind and weather in her woods and meadow. The process changes her in unexpected ways, just as it did for women homesteaders more than a century ago. The more she works with wood, the more she understands the importance of “going with the grain” in wood as well as in life. She must learn to let go, to move through loss and grief, to trust her voice, and to balance independence and dependence. Corbett also gains a better understanding of her fellow Wyomingites, a mix of ranchers, builders, gas workers, and developers, who share a love of place but often hold decidedly different values. This beautifully written memoir will appeal to readers who appreciate stories of the western landscape, independent women, or the appreciation of the natural world.
With masterful storytelling, Bergland and Hayes demonstrate how Lapham blended his ravenous curiosity with an equable temperament and a passion for detail to create a legacy that is still relevant today.
In this long overdue tribute to Wisconsin’s first scientist, authors Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes explore the remarkable life and achievements of Increase Lapham (1811–1875). Lapham’s ability to observe, understand, and meticulously catalog the natural world marked all of his work, from his days as a teenage surveyor on the Erie Canal to his last great contribution as state geologist.
Self-taught, Lapham mastered botany, geology, archaeology, limnology, mineralogy, engineering, meteorology, and cartography. A prolific writer, his 1844 guide to the territory was the first book published in Wisconsin. Asked late in life which field of science was his specialty, he replied simply, “I am studying Wisconsin.”
Lapham identified and preserved thousands of botanical specimens. He surveyed and mapped Wisconsin’s effigy mounds. He was a force behind the creation of the National Weather Service, lobbying for a storm warning system to protect Great Lakes sailors. Told in compelling detail through Lapham’s letters, journals, books, and articles, Studying Wisconsin chronicles the life and times of Wisconsin’s pioneer citizen-scientist.
Never has there been a president less content to sit still behind a desk than Theodore Roosevelt. When we picture him, he's on horseback or standing at a cliff’s edge or dressed for safari. And Roosevelt was more than just an adventurer—he was also a naturalist and campaigner for conservation. His love of the outdoor world began at an early age and was driven by a need not to simply observe nature but to be actively involved in the outdoors—to be in the field. As Michael R. Canfield reveals in Theodore Roosevelt in the Field, throughout his life Roosevelt consistently took to the field as a naturalist, hunter, writer, soldier, and conservationist, and it is in the field where his passion for science and nature, his belief in the manly, “strenuous life,” and his drive for empire all came together.
Drawing extensively on Roosevelt’s field notebooks, diaries, and letters, Canfield takes readers into the field on adventures alongside him. From Roosevelt’s early childhood observations of ants to his notes on ornithology as a teenager, Canfield shows how Roosevelt’s quest for knowledge coincided with his interest in the outdoors. We later travel to the Badlands, after the deaths of Roosevelt’s wife and mother, to understand his embrace of the rugged freedom of the ranch lifestyle and the Western wilderness. Finally, Canfield takes us to Africa and South America as we consider Roosevelt’s travels and writings after his presidency. Throughout, we see how the seemingly contradictory aspects of Roosevelt’s biography as a hunter and a naturalist are actually complementary traits of a man eager to directly understand and experience the environment around him.
As our connection to the natural world seems to be more tenuous, Theodore Roosevelt in the Field offers the chance to reinvigorate our enjoyment of nature alongside one of history’s most bold and restlessly curious figures.
More than any other Transcendentalist of his time, Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) embodied the full complement of the movement’s ideals and vocations: author, advocate for self-reform, stern critic of society, abolitionist, philosopher, and naturalist. The Thoreau of our time—valorized anarchist, founding environmentalist, and fervid advocate of civil disobedience—did not exist in the nineteenth century. In this rich and appealing collection, Sandra Harbert Petrulionis untangles Thoreau’s multiple identities by offering a wide range of nineteenth-century commentary as the opinions of those who knew him evolved over time.
The forty-nine recollections gathered in Thoreau in His Own Time demonstrate that it was those who knew him personally, rather than his contemporary literati, who most prized Thoreau’s message, but even those who disparaged him respected his unabashed example of an unconventional life. Included are comments by Ralph Waldo Emerson—friend, mentor, Walden landlord, and progenitor of the spin on Thoreau’s posthumous reputation; Nathaniel Hawthorne, who could not compliment Thoreau without simultaneously denigrating him; and John Weiss, whose extended commentary on Thoreau’s spirituality reflects unusual tolerance. Selections from the correspondence of Caroline Healey Dall, Maria Thoreau, Sophia Hawthorne, Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley, and Amanda Mather amplify our understanding of the ways in which nineteenth-century women viewed Thoreau. An excerpt by John Burroughs, who alternately honored and condemned Thoreau, asserts his view that Thoreau was ever searching for the unattainable.
The dozens of primary sources in this crisply edited collection illustrate the complexity of Thoreau’s iconoclastic singularity in a way that no one biographer could. Each entry is introduced by a headnote that places the selection in historical and cultural context. Petrulionis’s comprehensive introduction and her detailed chronology of personal and literary events in Thoreau’s life provide a lively and informative gateway to the entries themselves. The collaborative biography that Petrulionis creates in Thoreau in His Own Time contextualizes the strikingly divergent views held by his contemporaries and highlights the reasons behind his profound legacy.
With her distinctive, impassioned voice and familiar felicity of language, Terry Tempest Williams talks about wilderness and wildlife, place and eroticism, art and literature, democracy and politics, family and heritage, Mormonism and religion, writing and creativity, and other subjects that engage her agile mind—in a set of interviews gathered and introduced by Michael Austin to represent the span of her career as a naturalist, author, and activist.
In these times of technological innovation and fast-paced electronic communication, we often take nature for granted—or even consider it a hindrance to our human endeavors. In Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist’s Memoir, Jerry Apps explores such topics as the human need for wilderness, rediscovering a sense of wonder, and his father’s advice to “listen for the whispers” and “look in the shadows” to learn nature’s deepest lessons.
Combining his signature lively storytelling and careful observations of nature, Apps draws on a lifetime of experiences, from his earliest years growing up on a central Wisconsin farm to his current ventures as gardener, tree farmer, and steward of wetlands, prairies, and endangered Karner blue butterflies. He also takes inspiration from the writings of Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Sigurd Olson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Richard Louv, and Rachel Carson. With these eloquent essays, Jerry Apps reminds us to slow down, turn off technology, and allow our senses to reconnect us to the natural world. For it is there, he writes, that “I am able to return to a feeling I had when I was a child, a feeling of having room to stretch my arms without interfering with another person, a feeling of being a small part of something much larger than I was, and I marvel at the idea.”
As a founder of the Sierra Club and promoter of the national parks, as a passionate nature writer and as a principal figure of the environmental movement, John Muir stands as a powerful symbol of connection with the natural world. But how did Muir’s own relationship with nature begin? In this pioneering book, Steven J. Holmes offers a dramatically new interpretation of Muir’s formative years, one that reveals the agony as well as the elation of his earliest experiences of nature.
From his childhood in Scotland and Wisconsin through his young adulthood in the Midwest and Canada, Muir struggled—often without success—to find a place for himself both in nature and in society. Far from granting comfort, the natural world confronted the young Muir with a full range of practical, emotional, and religious conflicts. Only with the help of his family, his religion, and the extraordinary power of nature itself could Muir in his late twenties find a welcoming vision of nature as home—a vision that would shape his lifelong environmental experience, most immediately in his transformative travels through the South and to the Yosemite Valley.
More than a biography, The Young John Muir is a remarkable exploration of the human relationship with wilderness. Accessible and engaging, the book will appeal to anyone interested in the individual struggle to come to terms with the power of nature.