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Discovering Birds: The Emergence of Ornithology as a Scientific Discipline, 1760-1850

By: Paul Lawrence Farber

191 pages, 11 illus

Johns Hopkins University Press

Paperback | Dec 1996 | #56415 | ISBN: 0801855373
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NHBS Price: £16.50 $21/€18 approx

About this book

In this case study of the history of ornithology, the author rejects the view that 18th-century natural history disappeared with the rise of 19th-century biology. He demonstrates interesting continuities: as natural history evolves into individual sciences (botany, geology and zoology) and specialities (entymology and ichthyology), the study of birds emerged as a distinct scientific discipline that remained observational and taxonomic. Ornithologists continued to see one of their primary tasks as classification, and they found no need to alter their approach. They were aided at the end of the 18th century as colonization and exploration brought new data - a plethora of exotic and previously unknown birds. By the mid-19th century, ornithology had become a scientific discipline with international experts, a large empirical base, and a rigorous methodology of watching and cataloging.

By situating the conceptual development of ornithology within its social and institutional context, Farber's study offers rich new materials and fresh insights into the problems of discipline building and professionalization in the natural science. An outstanding monograph.--Timothy Lenoir, University of Arizona "Farber's study is rigorous, thoughtfully articulated, and--at its best--clearly transcends the history of ornithology, natural history, and the history of science."--'Journal of the History of Medicine' "Anyone concerned with the formation of new scientific disciplines will find Farber's account invaluable."--'Social Studies of Science' "A good resource for those interested in the early days and origins of ornithology"--'Bird Watcher's Digest'

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Paul Lawrence Farber is professor of history at Oregon State University.

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