349 pages, Maps
In 1800 Francois Peron, an ambitious young medical student not long released from the French revolutionary army, gained a place as an assistant zoologist on Nicolas Baudin's expedition to Australian waters. As his colleagues either deserted or died, he would rise rapidly within the expedition's ranks and even write its official account. In doing so, Peron would seek to destroy Baudin's posthumous reputation. The expedition was famously marked by the vexed relationship between Peron and Baudin, but Peron's work, as a man of science, profoundly enhanced the achievements of the expedition: he seized valuable opportunities to pioneer zoological, oceanographic and ethnographic studies, and as an ecological observer was remarkably prescient. Edward Duyker's meticulously researched biography of Peron provides an engaging and wide-ranging journey-from the heart of pre-revolutionary rural France, to the bitter fighting on the Rhineland front in 1793-94, to the late eighteenth-century Paris medical school, to landfalls in the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, to the little-known shores of Van Diemen's Land and New Holland, and back into the very heart of Napoleon's Empire. This is both a balanced assessment of the difficult relationship between Peron and Baudin, and an analysis of the conduct of science during some of the most turbulent years in French history.
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