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A Wider View of the Universe traces the origins and development of Henry David Thoreau's painstaking and profound study of the natural world. Arguing that Thoreau in his early career did not perceive nature a worthy subject for his pen, the author chronicles his growing interest and the reasons behind the shift in viewpoint. Making do with a superficial knowledge of nature – even while living at Walden Pond – Thoreau began to study the subject more acutely in 1849 and 1850. Over the next dozen years, he applied himself especially to botany and ornithology, while seeking to integrate this more exact knowledge into the large patterns of life. Independently deriving what now would be considered an ecological world view, Thoreau devoted the last years of his writing career to nature studies, written in his own unique and exacting fashion. Henry Thoreau wrote after the fashion of a painter. How he arrived at this art provides an intriguing and arresting story.
Robert Kuhn McGregor, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois-Springfield, taught environmental history, early American history, and the history of popular culture, including a course on baseball. He lives in Corning, New York.