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

Richard Conniff, Norton, $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-393-06854-2
Until about 1834, the word "scientist" didn't exist. According to naturalist Conniff (Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time), it was likely at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science) where a member, following the model of "artist" and "atheist," coined a new term—"scientist" reflecting the transition of the nascent study of plants and animals from self-educated hobbyists to a new breed of professional. The author blows the fusty dust of centuries off an exhaustive bibliography of almost 300 books, many published in the 1800s. Conniff tells a fresh story that begins with Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus's creation of a species classification system in 1735, through Darwin's development of the theory of evolution—and of how, then as now, it was a challenge to religious orthodoxy—to the present as new species continue to be discovered, including in this decade a striped rabbit in the Mekong Delta. Conniff's parade of pioneers whose colorful exploits are recounted is at times overwhelming, but this history of the "great age of discovery" is spellbinding. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/13/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-393-34132-4
Open Ebook - 978-0-393-08056-8
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