Footsteps in the Jungle: Adventures in the Scientific Exploration of American Tropics

Jonathan Maslow, Author Ivan R. Dee Publisher $27.5 (319p) ISBN 978-1-56663-137-2
Maslow (Torrid Zone) offers a collection of 13 superficial biographical sketches of individuals who have brought the American tropics alive for the rest of us. The personalities are surely fascinating--individuals like Charles Waterton, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, William Beebe, Archie Carr and Margaret Mee. The profiles fall flat, however, in part because each chapter is so abbreviated that little depth is achieved and in part because each contains almost random snippets taken from the writing of its subject. The biggest shortcoming is best exemplified in a line Maslow writes in his sketch of Henry Walter Bates: ""we never make much headway on the question of what possesses a man to break all ties with home, country, and family, and bury himself for years in the jungle of a foreign continent."" No such insights are provided for any of Maslow's subjects. He fails to comment on, perhaps even to notice, the most striking fact of all: in the fewer than 200 years since Alexander von Humboldt first began exploring the tropics, ecologist Daniel Janzen is struggling to re-create tropical forests ravaged in Costa Rica for short-term economic gain. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/28/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
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