The Spice Islands Voyage: The Quest for the Man Who Shared Darwin's Discovery of Evolution

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9780786705184: The Spice Islands Voyage: The Quest for the Man Who Shared Darwin's Discovery of Evolution
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Overlooked by most history books, this biography profiles Alfred Russell Wallace, an Englishman whose name was on the first paper about natural selection and whose epic journey The Malay Archipelago was retraced in 1996 by the author.

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No mere travelogue of palm-fringed beaches and photogenic natives, Tim Severin's The Spice Islands Voyage is a rewarding mix of historical biography, contemporary adventure travel, and firm (but not shrill) warnings for the future of this exotic East Indonesian island group. As he relates his experiences sailing the archipelago in an indigenous prahu, Severin brings to life both the lush, volcano-spawned isles and Alfred Wallace, the 19th-century British naturalist whose myriad travels here provide the blueprint for Severin's own journey. A shy, self-taught naturalist with a gift for intuitive leaps of genius, Wallace authored a groundbreaking essay (conceived and written in the Spice Islands) on natural selection--an essay his idol, Charles Darwin, may have "mined" for his own theory of evolution.

Now, 140 years later, Severin sets forth to see how the clear turquoise waters, teeming reefs, and wildly diverse animal life that entranced and inspired Wallace have fared. Searching out boldly feathered birds of paradise, graceful green sea turtles, blue-capped maleos, and black-crested macaques, he finds reason for both hope and despair. In some regions, a blend of traditional subsistence hunting and human ingenuity has allowed imperiled species to hold their own; in others, shortsighted greed is decimating one of the most varied plant and animal kingdoms on earth.

Well written, generously illustrated, and powerfully evocative, The Spice Islands Voyage opens a window onto a fascinating historical figure and the precarious state of the islands he loved. --Rebecca Gleason

From Publishers Weekly:

Written in the vein of Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki, this engaging book takes a fascinating armchair voyage through the Indonesian Archipelago journeys of Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). Author and world-class explorer Severin (The China Voyage) builds a close approximation of the boat Wallace used and then relies on Wallace's immensely well-received book, The Malay Archipelago, to plot his modern route. The point is twofold: to compare the teeming tropical environment Wallace so carefully combed and beautifully described to today's, and to remind 20th-century readers that Darwin's theory of natural selection was not his alone. Severin does a credible job of showing Wallace's likely?albeit unknowing?role in helping Darwin pull together his momentous concept after 20 years of research. According to Severin, Wallace put the basic concept down on paper in between bouts of delirium occasioned by jungle fever. He then sent his ideas to Darwin and others in the English scientific community for feedback. Darwin published his tome Origin of Species not long after. Although the theory of evolution by natural selection was initially called the Darwin-Wallace Theory, Wallace's name was soon dropped in most circles. Overall, Severin's environmental message is more upbeat than his historical reporting. Many of the areas Wallace once traipsed remain relatively sound ecologically. The key to their good health, Severin believes, lies in how the natives co-exist with the land, trying not to destroy more wildlife than is necessary. It's a moral that readers of Severin's splendid book will embrace, and one with which Wallace could easily have agreed. Illustrated with numerous line drawings and 12 pages of full-color photos. BOMC featured selection.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780786707218: The Spice Islands Voyage: The Quest for Alfred Wallace, The Man Who Shared Darwin's Discovery of Evolution

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ISBN 10:  0786707216 ISBN 13:  9780786707218
Publisher: Da Capo Press, 1999
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