On the great Pacific discovery expeditions of the "long eighteenth century", naturalists for the first time were commonly found aboard ships sailing forth from European ports. Lured by intoxicating opportunities to discover exotic and perhaps lucrative flora and fauna unknown at home, these men set out eagerly to collect and catalogue, study and document an uncharted natural world. This enthralling book, Naturalists at Sea, is the first to describe the adventures and misadventures, discoveries and dangers of this devoted and sometimes eccentric band of explorer-scholars.
Their individual experiences are uniquely their own, but together their stories offer a new perspective on the extraordinary era of Pacific exploration and the achievements of an audacious generation of naturalists. Historian Glyn Williams illuminates the naturalist's lot aboard ship, where danger alternated with boredom and quarrels with the ship's commander were the norm. Nor did the naturalists' difficulties end upon returning home, where gaining recognition for years of work often proved elusive.
Peopled with wonderful characters and major figures of Enlightenment science – among them Louis Antoine de Bougainville, Joseph Banks, John Reinhold Forster, Captain Cook and Charles Darwin – Naturalists at Sea is a gripping account of a small group of scientific travellers whose voyages of discovery were to change perceptions of the natural world.
Glyn Williams is Emeritus Professor of History, University of London. He is the author of more than a dozen books on European voyages of exploration and was historical consultant for the BBC television series, The Ship, on Capt. Cook's first voyage. He lives in Kent.
"An extraordinary and entertaining catalog of maritime and scientific endeavor."
– Michael Fathers, The Wall Street Journal
"An erudite and beautifully illustrated work, Naturalists at Sea wears its learning lightly, and conveys to non-specialists an array of fascinating details about explorers and naturalists, familiar and not-so-familiar, quoting judiciously from their journals and post-voyage publications [...] every page testifies to the indomitable vitality of both explorers and naturalists."
– Andrew Robinson, Nature
"This fascinating tale is told across time, ships, captains and crews, and the countries that sent or received these scientific travelers, naturalists who brought their skills and weaknesses to documenting the natural world during the Enlightenment and beyond. Williams [...] does all the hard work of making these lives and adventures comprehensible."
– Library Journal
"[A] fascinating work [...] This well-illustrated book will interest a wide audience."
"This book is pulp-free; the stories have been carefully reconstructed from journals, and they recount genuinely important events, the exploits of a crowd of important men. Successfully filling in a historical blank makes this an important book."
– Weekly Standard