Natural history, the deliberate observation of the environment, is arguably the oldest science. From purely practical beginnings as a way of finding food and shelter, natural history evolved into the holistic, systematic study of plants, animals, and the landscape. Deep Things Out of Darkness chronicles the rise, decline, and ultimate revival of natural history within the realms of science and public discourse. Ecologist John G. T. Anderson focuses his account on the lives and contributions of an eclectic group of men and women, from John Ray, John Muir, Charles Darwin, and Rachel Carson, who endured remarkable hardships and privations in order to learn more about their surroundings. Written in an engaging narrative style and with an extensive bibliography of primary sources, Deep Things Out of Darkness charts the journey of the naturalist's endeavor from prehistory to the present, underscoring the need for natural history in an era of dynamic environmental change.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Adam's Task, Job's Challenge
1. From Hunter-Gatherers to Kings of Kings
2. A Wonderful Man: Aristotle and Greek Natural History
3. The Spoils of an Empire
4. An Emperor and His Descendants
5. New Worlds
6. Ray, Linnaeus, and the Ordering of the World
7. Journeys Near and Far
8. Before the Origin
9. Forms Most Beautiful: Darwin
10. The Geography of Nature: Humboldt
11. Hearts of Light: Wallace and Bates
12. Spoils of Other Empires
13. Breadfruit and Icebergs
14. Naturalists in New England: Thoreau, Agassiz, and Gray
15. From Muir and Alexander to Leopold and Carson
16. The Slow Death (and Resurrection) of Natural History
John G. T. Anderson is the W. H. Drury Jr. Professor of Ecology and Natural History at College of the Atlantic. He was the editor of Drury's Chance and Change: Ecology for Conservationists (UC Press, 1998).
"A sweeping work of passion and erudition, Deep Things Out of Darkness deftly traces the rise, decline, and recent revival of natural history in the West. Through a series of carefully crafted biographical vignettes of famous naturalists – from Aristotle to Rachel Carson – Anderson highlights the accomplishments of the men and women who have struggled to comprehend the earth's teeming biodiversity."
– Mark V. Barrow, Jr., author of Nature's Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology
"This book resonates with the persistent joy of discovery. We are invited into the lives of naturalists known and unknown, and we get to see the world as they saw it, showing us the path our craft has taken through the deep woods of time. Anderson explores the evolving ecology of natural history, underlining the impact of social pressures and the individual passions of those who shaped our view of the natural world. Deep Things is a must-read for those who call themselves naturalists – and many more of us should!"
– Joshua Tewksbury, Walker Professor of Natural History, University of Washington
"A remarkable work of scholarship that reads like a spirited conversation with a very smart friend. Anderson has delved into the depths of original historical texts and re-emerged to write an engaging story of the human quest to understand our more-than-human neighbors. An invaluable resource for scholars, and – more important – a fun read for us all."
– Thomas L. Fleischner, Director, Natural History Institute, Prescott College