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

Richard Conniff
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Jan 2012
This is the story of the adventurers who risked death to discover strange life forms in the farthest corners of Earth. Beginning with Linnaeus, a colourful band of explorers made it their mission to travel and bring back astonishing new life forms. Acclaimed science writer Richard Conniff brings these daredevil "species seekers" to 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. People weren't sure where vegetable ended and animal began, they couldn't classify species and 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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The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth + Darwin's Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (20 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393341321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393341324
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"...marvellous book... Manjit Kumar, Financial Times "...a refreshingly original book..." V.S. Ramachandran, Big Reads 2010, New Scientist "...deftly written... will delight and inform..." The Guardian "An enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes." New Scientist "The Species Seekers still brilliantly evokes that just-before-Darwin era..." BBC Focus "A brilliant history of amateur naturalists' invaluable work." BBC Wildlife "...highlights how new discoveries generate... breakthroughs." Nature "Seldom have so many of their [freelance collectors] travails been recounted in one volume, much less with such narrative skill, poignancy and good humour." TLS "Richard Conniff provides a thoroughly entertaining series of adventure stories..." Richard Fortey, TLS Books of the Year 2011 "Overall the book is an engrossing and intriguing read that's sure to pique the interest of many a budding naturalist or historian in equal measure." Real Travel "...fascinating book..." Wanderlust "A meticulously researched and witty tale of the history of natural history..." Grrl Scientist "...excellent narrative...This thoroughly enjoyable book should be a classic for anyone interested in the history of natural history." --School Science Review

This is a most readable history of naturalists. --The Independent

A swashbuckling swing through the heyday of Victorian natural history... --Irish Times

About the Author

Richard Conniff is an award-winning magazine writer, a frequent commentator on NPR and a guest columnist for The New York Times. His most recent book is Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time (ISBN 978 0 393 30457 2).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Species Seekers, my review 27 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This work contains a detailed account of the lives and events of some of the first naturalists. Being myself a taxonomist, I must underline the importance of the legacy left by these species seekers, still present in today's world. Of great interest in this book are the stories regarding aspects of the cultural and social dimensions of the species seekers, and those concerning the transformation of the relation of the human species with the natural world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas gift 20 Jan 2014
By Xx
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was bought as a Christmas list so can't provide a complete review, but my dad seems to be pleased with it, I have had no complaints!
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Really enjoyable and informative. I found his research fascinating and compassionate. Tragic how man has systematically set about destroying species and continues to do so. The mad pursuit continues!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A memorial to those who enhanced our knowledge 21 July 2013
With the benefit of hindsight, any discovery, invention or innovation seems to be obvious. This is not just because you can `see' that wheels make transport easier, for example, but also that you do not have to change mind-set from the no-wheel world to that where wheels are everywhere.

For me, this book is a bit like a natural history version of `Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead', a play written in the mid 1960's based on two minor characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet, where this time these two characters are centre stage. Like-wise, there are some characters that many would know of (Carolus Linnaeus, Charles Darwin, perhaps Alfred Russell Wallace) but interwoven are some less well-known, or hardly heard of at all, and many that are certainly eccentric.

My hope is that if this is your first dip into that of discoveries in natural history, then it will encourage you to find out more about some of the characters and epic stories concerned. Otherwise, that this helps you to tie together some of the pieces that you know of (and where the detail elsewhere is certainly in greater depth).

It also makes me realise how far understanding has changed since even the mid-Victorian era (1870's). Debates were real debates about whether negroes were a separate (lower) species (from the beginning of the 21st century an emphatic "no"), and how attitudes have changes about the role of women in science. Robert Owen from the British museum once described "Mammalia as nurturing their young in a peculiar way" to avoid mentioning "breasts"!

There are some huge personalities involved, with feuds, intrigue and jostling for both position and any scientific / international recognition that may be forthcoming.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! 6 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great read, interesting and well-written book on a subject little discussed and largely forgotten in the modern scientific world .
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