The Great Naturalists

ISBN 13: 9780500251393

The Great Naturalists

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9780500251393: The Great Naturalists
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The story of natural history as seen through the lives, observations, and discoveries of the world's greatest naturalists.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the great naturalists who described, experimented, and collected, who gave us the means to understand the natural world and the potential not only to exploit it but also to conserve it. They came from all over Europe and America, from Classical times to the end of the nineteenth century when natural history changed from a mainly amateur pursuit to today's specialized scientific profession.

Braving dangers from storms, pirates, and disease in their pursuit of cataloging the natural world, pioneers such as Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin changed the course of science with their daring travels and groundbreaking theories. This book includes many who are well known, such as the earliest great natural historian, Aristotle; Carl Linnaeus, the man who brought order to nature; the great voyager and collector Joseph Banks; and Georges Cuvier, who established the concept of extinction. But others are now given their rightful place: Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who made his own microscopes and discovered bacteria; Nicolas Steno, who opened the door to the earth's geological past; and Mary Anning, "the princess of palaeontology," who had an amazing, self-taught talent for finding fossils.

Many whose lives are described here were great artists as well as naturalists, and the book is illustrated with beautiful and precise paintings and drawings of birds, animals, fossils, fish, shells, and rocks selected from the unparalleled picture archives and collections of the Natural History Museum, London, as well as other sources. 194 illustrations, 137 in color.

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About the Author:

Robert Huxley is Head of Collections, Department of Botany, The Natural History Museum, London.

From Publishers Weekly:

The little-known history of natural history-that is, how the first naturalists observed and catalogued their world, how they grappled with unanswered questions, and how the sciences of geology, biology, ecology and paleontology developed over three centuries-is wonderfully illuminated in this volume from the Natural History Museum of London's Huxley. Examining 39 naturalists, Huxley assigns each subject-from ancient Greece's Aristotle to America's first botanist, Asa Gray-his or her own biographer (many also from London's Natural History Museum), who provide a brief but detailed life story and a summation of scientific contributions. While some subjects are well-known-John James Audubon, Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin among them-many will be unfamiliar: John Ray, labeled the "English Aristotle," first defined the concept of "species"; Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered micro-organisms (using Robert Hooke's microscope); and Mary Anning, born to destitution in Regency England, sparked a revolution in scientific thought with her fossil excavations. These naturalists were often excellent figure and watercolor artists, and this volume is heavily illustrated with striking, full-color reproductions from their publications (and occasional portraits); especially revelatory are renderings of now extinct species, like Audubon's glorious painting of the Carolina parakeet.
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