The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth

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W. W. Norton & Company, Nov 1, 2010 - Science - 480 pages
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The story of bold adventurers who risked death to discover strange life forms in the farthest corners of planet Earth.

Beginning with Linnaeus, a colorful band of explorers made it their mission to travel to the most perilous corners of the planet and bring back astonishing new life forms. They attracted followers ranging from Thomas Jefferson, who laid out mastodon bones on the White House floor, to twentieth-century doctors who used their knowledge of new species to conquer epidemic diseases. Acclaimed science writer Richard Conniff brings these daredevil "species seekers" to vivid life. Alongside their globe-spanning tales of adventure, he recounts some of the most dramatic shifts in the history of human thought. At the start, everyone accepted that the Earth had been created for our benefit. We weren't sure where vegetable ended and animal began, we couldn't classify species, and we didn't understand the causes of disease. But all that changed as the species seekers introduced us to the pantheon of life on Earth—and our place within it.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gbelik - LibraryThing

This is the story of the remarkable, dedicated and sometimes very quirky people who collected and classified new plants and animals from all over the world, primarily in the 19th century. It's full of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

In The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earch, Richard Conniff does for natural history what John Noble Wilford's The Mapmakers did for cartography: a handy, one-volume ... Read full review


Introduction Strange Things Strange Lands
Chapter One That Great Beast of a Town
Chapter Two Finding the Thread
Chapter Three Collecting and Conquest
Chapter Seven The River Rolling Westward
Chapter Eight If They Lost Their Skalps
Chapter Nine The Burden of Specimens
Chapter Ten Arsenic and Immortality
Chapter Twelve Craniological Longings
Chapter Thirteen A Fool to Nature
Chapter Fourteen The World Turned Upside Down
Chapter Seventeen Labourer in the Field
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Chapter Eleven Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

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About the author (2010)

Richard Coniff, a Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the National Magazine Award, writes for Smithsonian and National Geographic and is a frequent commentator on NPR's All Things Considered and a guest columnist for the New York Times. His books include The Natural History of the Rich, Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time, and The Species Seekers. He lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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