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Academic & Professional Books  Natural History  General Natural History

All Creatures Naturalists, Collectors, and Biodiversity, 1850-1950

By: Robert E Kohler
380 pages, 55 halftones, 1 table
All Creatures
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  • All Creatures ISBN: 9780691125398 Hardback Aug 2006 Out of stock with supplier: order now to get this when available
Price: £57.99
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About this book

We humans share Earth with 1.4 million known species and millions more species that are still unrecorded. Yet we know surprisingly little about the practical work that produced the vast inventory we have to date of our fellow creatures. How were these multitudinous creatures collected, recorded, and named? When, and by whom?

Here a distinguished historian of science tells the story of the modern discovery of biodiversity. Robert Kohler argues that the work begun by Linnaeus culminated around 1900, when collecting and inventory were organized on a grand scale in natural history surveys. Supported by governments, museums, and universities, biologists launched hundreds of collecting expeditions to every corner of the world. Kohler conveys to readers the experience and feel of expeditionary travel: the customs and rhythms of collectors' daily work, and its special pleasures and pains.

A novel twist in this story is that survey collecting was rooted not just in science but also in new customs of outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, and sport hunting. These popular pursuits engendered a wide scientific interest in animals and plants and inspired wealthy nature-goers to pay for expeditions. The modern discovery of biodiversity became a reality when scientists' desire to know intersected with the culture of outdoor vacationing. General readers as well as scholars will find this book fascinating.


List of Illustrations ix Preface xi CHAPTER ONE: Nature 1 Natural History Survey 10 Inner Frontiers 17 Twilight Zones 30 Impressions 37 Conclusion 45 CHAPTER TWO: Culture 47 Nature-Going 50 Middle-Class Vacation: From Leisure to Recreation 56 Recreation and Natural Science 67 Nature Essay and Diorama 73 The Science of Art 82 Conclusion 88 CHAPTER THREE: Patrons 91 Natural History Surveys 94 Museum Exhibition and Collecting 107 Museum Collecting: An Overview 117 Research Museums and Their Patrons 123 Conclusion 134 CHAPTER FOUR: Expedition 137 The Field Party 139 System 149 Communication 154 Infrastructure 162 Mobility and Automobility 172 Conclusion 180 CHAPTER FIVE: Work 182 Work and Skill 183 Pleasures 192 Pains 197 Careers 205 Women in the Field 215 Identity 220 Conclusion 225 CHAPTER SIX: Knowledge 227 Species and Survey Collecting 231 Taxonomists: A Natural History 239 Subspecies and Practice 245 Subspecies: The History 253 Subspecies in Crisis 264 Conclusion 269 CHAPTER SEVEN: Envoi 271 From Collecting to Observing 272 A Changing World 278 Biodiversity Revisited 282 Abbreviations 287 Notes 289 Selected Bibliography 345 Index 357

Customer Reviews


Robert E. Kohler is Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The recipient of an award for lifetime achievement in his field, he is the author of four previous books on the experimental and field sciences, including "Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life".
By: Robert E Kohler
380 pages, 55 halftones, 1 table
Media reviews
[A] fascinating and groundbreaking book. -- Tim Dee Times Literary Supplement In this new, well-argued book, Kohler plays down the importance of laboratory life to naturalists. Instead he puts their scientific achievements into the contexts of the environment they worked in, the social culture of nature-going they often came from, and, lastly, the science of classification in the tradition of the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne... An important contribution to the history of naturalists in the United States, it is well worth the read. -- Peder Anker Science Fascinating reading... All Creatures presents an excellent summary of the work and lives of explorers and surveyors. Kohler summarizes the rapidly vanishing field of biological surveys for a broad audience, formidably bringing back old times to explain the birth and growth of surveys, collecting and natural history. -- Swen C. Renner EMBO Reports In this rich story of discoveries, readers learn of the remarkable natural history work that has identified and named 1.4 million species on Earth... This book portrays the travel, pleasures, and pain of fieldwork in this great century of taxonomy. Choice
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