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A Glorious Enterprise: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the Making of American Science [Hardcover]

Robert McCracken Peck , Patricia Tyson Stroud , Rosamond Purcell

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Book Description

28 Feb 2012 0812243803 978-0812243802
Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia stands today as the oldest natural history museum in the Western hemisphere. Early expeditions organized at the Academy were of central importance to the exploration of America's western wilderness, and the plant and animal specimens that were brought back formed the foundation of a collection that today contains some eighteen million items. What began as a small gathering of devoted amateurs has grown into a vibrant international center for scientific education and research. A Glorious Enterprise, the first complete history of the Academy, tells the story of the brilliant and passionate men and women who endeavored to acquire and disseminate knowledge of the natural world. Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Robert Peary, Ernest Hemingway, and James Bond are just a few of the colorful Academy associates profiled in this lively narrative. Naturalist and historian Robert McCracken Peck and historical biographer Patricia Tyson Stroud take readers behind the scenes of the Academy, recounting the signal moments and achievements that shaped its first two hundred years-from its landmark discoveries in North America and around the world, through the construction of its famed dioramas in the 1930s, to the pioneering work of Academy scientists in water pollution and conservation long before these were topics of popular concern. The book is richly illustrated throughout with hundreds of archival images and stunningly original works by acclaimed photographer Rosamond Purcell that cast specimens from the Academy's collections in a new light. Like Academy members on a quest for wondrous specimens, lovers of the sciences, American history, museums, and libraries will want to add A Glorious Enterprise to their collections. Filled with lively anecdotes, captivating biographical details, and fascinating facts, this beautiful and enlightening history will be treasured for years to come.

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"To leaf through A Glorious Enterprise is to see history unfold. Two hundred years in the making, this beautiful book is a paean to the Western Hemisphere's oldest natural history museum-the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia-and the passionate men and women who shaped its reputation. Like a sophisticated cabinet of curiosities, the tome brims with treasures illustrating the museum's 18-million-piece collection."-Audubon "A book to remember... To wander through A Glorious Enterprise is to absorb the nineteenth century's passion for botany and zoology; the twentieth century's mania for exploration of distant, difficult or desolate places; and present-day preoccupations... All of these tales are fascinating, but the book's true fascination comes in its color photographs and illustrations, scores of them."-Cornelia Dean, New York Times "A handsome volume that should be in all serious collections on the history of the natural sciences."-Library Journal "Magnificent in both its scope and its ambitious physicality, A Glorious Enterprise is a fascinating miniature museum in and of itself, exploring the cultural history of natural history with equal parts rigor and romanticism-the hallmark of great science."-Maria Popova, Brain Pickings "A fascinating history, lavishly illustrated, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, America's earliest scientific institution. The book's eighteen chapters offer not a single narrative, but a set of panels in which are figured episodes and topics that carry us from the beginning of the nineteenth century up to the present. For those who do not already know the Academy, A Glorious Enterprise should prompt a visit to the displays and library of this extraordinary home of scientific research."-Charles Gillispie, Professor Emeritus of the History of Science, Princeton University

About the Author

Robert McCracken Peck is Senior Fellow and Curator of Art and Artifacts at the Academy of Natural Sciences. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Land of the Eagle: A Natural History of North America, A Celebration of Birds: The Life and Art of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Headhunters and Hummingbirds: An Expedition into Ecuador, and All in the Bones: A Biography of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (with Valerie Bramwell). Patricia Tyson Stroud is an independent scholar who lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and East Blue Hill, Maine. She is the author of the award-winning books The Emperor of Nature: Charles-Lucien Bonaparte and His World and The Man Who Had Been King: The American Exile of Napoleon's Brother Joseph as well as Thomas Say: New World Naturalist, all published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Rosamond Purcell has exhibited internationally, and her work has been featured in Smithsonian, National Geographic, and Slate. Her books include Swift as a Shadow: Extinction and Endangered Animals, Owls Head: On the Nature of Lost Things, and Illuminations: A Bestiary (with Stephen Jay Gould).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review - A Glorious Enterprise 5 Jan 2013
By The Alternative - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This beautifully constructed non-fiction work tells the complete story of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia through some of the most stunning articles, photographs and paintings ever assembled. There is something new and fascinating to learn on every page. With stories about the founders, contributors (Lewis and Clark's collection is a stand out), and the millions of collected and contributed natural science pieces A Glorious Enterprise is sure to please everyone fortunate enough to open its cover. From start to finish this book is entertaining and educational and a "must have" for anyone even slightly interested in the natural sciences.
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent work 2 Oct 2013
By A. mack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is packed with useful information for anyone interested in the history of science, natural history, biology, ecology... Also for anyone interested in Philadelphia or American history, as the Academy's story begins in 1812. I think anyone with an interest in biology, museums, history and conservation will find new and relevant material here. The Academy has been quietly in the background playing a significant role in biology for a long time. For example the catalytic role Ruth Patrick played in the development of what we now call environmental sciences. Anyone who wonders what the value of museum collections is should be given a copy of this book. A lot goes on in the background and this book helps bring it to light.

The book is well written and engaging, but admittedly I already have an interest in the Academy. The photographs and illustrations are abundant and excellent and show a lot of effort and forethought. Combined with the text there is something of interest for any inquiring mind. This is not just an academic text for scholars, as one might expect from a university press.

Given the size and quality of the book and the number of excellent color images, the list price is a bargain.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I Expected 23 April 2013
By Gary J. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I expected more of a picture book showing the collections. It is a history of the development of the institution and the people who were involved. Still, a good read.
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