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Archipelago: The Islands of Indonesia - From the Nineteenth-century Discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace to the Fate of Forests and Reefs in the Twenty-first Century [Hardcover]

Gavan Daws

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Book Description

24 Nov 1999
The Indonesian archipelago is a land of timeless natural beauty that, in the 21st century, faces unprecedented environmental degradation. It was also the biological laboratory of Alfred Russel Wallace, who, working independently of Charles Darwin, discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace, who travelled for eight years in the archipelago, was one of the greatest field naturalists and nature writers of his century. A prodigious collector, he was the first to bring living birds of paradise to the West. This account of a true explorer sweeps from the time of Wallace's 19th-century discoveries in biogeography to the looming biodiversity crisis of the 21st century - from the exploration of natural wonders to the exploitation of natural resources. The result is a history that portrays the intricate connections of human life and natural life.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (24 Nov 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520215761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520215764
  • Product Dimensions: 25.4 x 3.2 x 27 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,673,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Extraordinarily beautiful." --"Washington Post Book World

About the Author

Gavan Daws is a historian and author of nine books about the Pacific and Asia, including a previous Nature Conservancy book, "Hawaii: The Islands of Life" (1988). He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. Marty Fujita is a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution and founding director of The Nature Conservancy's Indonesia Program. She lived and worked in Indonesia for over seven years and now resides in Oakland, California.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Examine the infant Alfred Russel Wallace as a biological specimen, a form of life on earth, and the odds against his survival would appear statistically daunting. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tropical splendor and historical significance. 28 Oct 2000
By A Customer - Published on
This beautiful coffee table book goes far beyond presenting the tropical and exotic beauty of this complex archipelago. True, outstanding photos highlight the natural splendor, rich culture and exotic architecture. But the authors also explore its historical significance, beginning with Wallace's 19th century discoveries in biogeography, continuing through the current, looming ecological crisis wrought by exploitation of the islands' natural resources. For those who have traveled to Indonesia, or have ever wished to, this book is a must.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pleasing eye candy and substance 6 Oct 2002
By Currahee - Published on
Archipelago is an excellent book on several levels. First, as a photo essay of the biota of the Indonesian islands it must be beyond compare. The photos are simply awesome, leaf through it and see for yourself. Second, it tells the story of one of the worlds least known but greatest scientists, Alfred Wallace. Wallace was just as responsible for developing the theory of evolution through natural selection as Charles Darwin. If you are interested in the history of science or a biology student at any level you should be aware of Wallace's work. This is as good a book to learn about it as any. One slight complaint, in reading this book I felt that the authors felt that Wallace received a raw deal from Darwin and the rest of the scientific community. I don't know if it's true or if the truth will ever be known. I know that Wallace didn't feel that way so why include it here? Third, this book is so much a trip through time. Each chapter on Wallace in the islands is mixed with modern essays on life in the islands and what is happening to the environment there. As an environmentalist "call to arms" it is great, because it is backed by better science through a broader range of disciplines than any I have seen.
I'm not a big fan of the "Coffee Table Book" but this is an exception. While it might be tempting to only look at the pictures, the text is in such a interesting format that reading it turns out to be such a breeze that you will be done before you notice.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent book! 27 July 2005
By M. Cwikiewicz - Published on
The books goes through all the major parts of Indonesia and shows plenty of well-selected pictures of amazing flora and fauna of the archipelago. Pictures are 70% of the book, but it also provides a good scientific description of how the archipelago formed (10% of the book), explaining how so unique species developed and survived untouched. Around 10% of the book is devoted to the explorers, like Wallace, who first discovered the uniquness of the islands and tried scientifically describe what they found - some early maps of the region and pictures of explorers are presented. Last 10% expresses the concerns about the impact of the modern Indonesia on the nature of the region. Book is published by UC Berkeley/LA, which can only be a further recommendation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest treasures of the Indies 1 Sep 2008
By Harry Eagar - Published on
The greatest variety of living things in the world inhabits the 17,500 islands and million square miles of ocean in the East Indies.
In "Archipelago," Effendy Sumardja, Indonesia's hard-pressed minister of environment, claims 15 to 25% of all the species in the world. That includes 7,000 kinds of fish -- about 10 times as many as in Hawaii. More than 6,000 plant and animal species are "used on a daily basis."
And in danger of being used up, which is why the Nature Conservancy sponsored this book, written by historian Gavan Daws, who wrote the Nature Conservancy's "Hawaii: The Islands of Life"; and Marty Fujita, a Smithsonian Institution researcher and founder of the Nature Conservancy Indonesia Program.
Many of those species are found nowhere else in the world. And many, like the clouded leopard, are found only in small parts of the thousand-mile-long sweep of islands.
That fact provides a springboard for the authors to place Indonesia in its proper context, both in today's politics and in the history of natural history. Indonesia is bisected by Wallace's Line, the first boundary ever recognized as dividing two "biogeographical provinces."
Most of the islands were connected to a continent at times of lower sea levels, the western part attached to Asia, the eastern part to Australia.
There is deep water between, and many species could not bridge it. On the west, there are monkeys. On the east, tree kangaroos, which lives much as monkeys do.
The man who recognized the concept of biogeographical provinces, Alfred Russel Wallace, had a happy, lucky life. And it is his account of eight years of collecting in the East Indies, 1856-62, that forms the framework of "Archipelago."
Lucky because he lived: There was no more dangerous job for a European in the 19th century than natural history collecting in the tropics. Wallace was sick a lot, but he survived for years in the Amazon and even more years in the East Indies.
Lucky also because he was most interested in animals, particularly birds, butterflies and mammals. Fujita and Daws note that Wallace's "line" is much less apparent if you are counting plants.
If Wallace had not thought up the concept of evolution by natural selection (which he did during a malarial fever, which he said induced his best thinking), then Charles Darwin had already done it. But the concept of biogeographical provinces was his alone, and it has become more and more valuable in natural history research over the years.
A lovable person, though not fond of society, he represents better than any other individual remembered by history the virtues that Victorian men were supposed to embody: He was amiable, scrupulously honest and very, very diligent. Among other things, he wrote 50 books.
To his even greater credit, he also lacked the color prejudice that infected most everybody in those days.
For him, growing up poor, Victoria's age was one of opportunity. Collectors wanted rarities and would pay for them. Wallace took his guns and insect pins to the places that had the rarest of the rare.
In the Indies, he particularly wanted birds of paradise and orangutans. It was tough work. He was often sick, in danger on the sea and sometimes starving. At one point, he ate the pigeons whose skins he prepared to send back to his broker in London.
"Collecting, travel, wide reading, deep thought, solitude -- this was the Wallace formula for a life of original, productive work," write Daws and Fujita.
Today, in an atmosphere of political uncertainty, 206 million Indonesians are pressing hard on their natural heritage. Forests of 300-foot-tall dipterocarp trees are being clearcut, farmers shift from slash-and-burn to permanent cultivation, dynamiters blow up reefs for fish.
Like other Nature Conservancy books, "Archipelago" is a call to action, this time disguised as a coffee table book filled with photographs of butterflies with seven-inch wings, unbelievably decorated birds of paradise and incomparably colorful reefs.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wealth of Information 10 Mar 2013
By Joyce T.Kellogg - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a fascinating and informative book. It was recommended to me and I am delighted that I purchased it.
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