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Modern Nature: The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany

By: Lynn K Nyhart

368 pages, 44 halftones, 1 table

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | May 2009 | #179441 | ISBN-13: 9780226610894
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NHBS Price: £36.99 $45/€42 approx

About this book

In "Modern Nature", Lynn K. Nyhart traces the emergence of a 'biological perspective' in late nineteenth-century Germany that emphasized the dynamic relationships among organisms, and between organisms and their environment. Examining this approach to nature in light of Germany's fraught urbanization and industrialization, as well as the opportunities presented by new and reforming institutions, she argues that rapid social change drew attention to the role of social relationships and physical environments in rendering a society - and nature - whole, functional, and healthy.

This quintessentially modern view of nature, Nyhart shows, stood in stark contrast to the standard naturalist's orientation toward classification. While this new biological perspective would eventually grow into the academic discipline of ecology, "Modern Nature" locates its roots outside the universities, in a vibrant realm of populist natural history inhabited by taxidermists and zookeepers, schoolteachers and museum reformers, amateur enthusiasts and nature protectionists. Probing the populist beginnings of animal ecology in Germany, Nyhart unites the history of popular natural history with that of elite science in a new way. In doing so, she brings to light a major orientation in late nineteenth-century biology that has long been eclipsed by Darwinism.

&i;"Modern Nature is a wonderful book. Lynn Nyhart's lucid prose, breadth of scholarship, overall historical sweep, and wealth of insights combine to produce a model study. A highly original work."&o;
- Richard W. Burkhardt Jr., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Lynn K. Nyhart is professor of history of science at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and the author of Biology Takes Form: Animal Morphology and the German University, 1800-1900, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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