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One hundred and fifty years ago, the young naturalists Alfred Wallace, Henry Walter Bates, and Richard Spruce were on a journey. Their destination, Amazonia the world's largest tropical forest with the greatest river system and richest ecosystem was then an almost-undiscovered environment to Western explorers and scientists. In Naturalists in Paradise, Amazon expert John Hemming weaves the riveting stories of these three men's experiences in the Amazon and assesses their valuable research that drastically changed our conception of the natural world.
Each of the three naturalists is famous for a particular discovery: Wallace is credited, along with Charles Darwin, for developing the theory of evolution; Bates uncovered the phenomenon of protective mimicry among insects; and Spruce transported the quinine-bearing Cinchona tree to India, saving countless lives from malaria. Drawing on the letters and books of the three naturalists, Hemming reaches beyond the well-known narratives, offering unrivaled insight into the often lawless frontier life in South America as seen through the lives of the great pioneers of modern disciplines: anthropology, tribal linguistics, archaeology, and every branch of natural science.
Formerly the Director of the Royal Geographical Society in London, John Hemming has traveled in and written extensively about the Amazon region. His previous books include Tree of Rivers.
"Hemming's fascination [with the Amazon] shines out of every page [...] a compelling story [...] Hemming tells the story of this extraordinary trio without hype, wisely content to let the facts and their own reflections speak largely for themselves"
– Daily Mail
"A splendid, indeed brilliant book [...] the first comprehensive account of those three historic figures"
– Wade Davis, winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize
"Clear and compelling [...] Hemming tells a hardly believable story with great clarity and sympathy"
– Financial Times