Prof Philip Howse's book Vicar of the Amazon, chronicles the life of the Reverend Arthur Miles Moss, a little-known genius who explored the Amazon, collecting and breeding butterflies and moths in period from 1903 to 1947 – a period during which little about the Amazon and its natural history became known to the world.
Miles Moss went to Peru in 1907 and from 1912 to 1945 was the Anglican Chaplain of the largest parish in the world, one that encompassed the whole of the Amazon basin from Iquitos in Peru to the Atlantic; an area roughly 3,000 miles long and 800 miles wide, amounting to about one quarter of the South American continent. His great passion was Lepidoptera: his major contributions to science were in the form of three classic works on hawk-moths and swallowtail butterflies, all published in the journal of his patron Lord Walter Rothschild who established Tring Museum containing the largest collection of butterflies and moths in the world.
Following in the wake of great Victorian naturalists such as Wallace and Bates, Moss' story has been neglected: apart from his publications in scientific journals he left a collection of 25,000 insects, unpublished manuscripts on Amazonian natural history, and some incredibly beautiful water-colours of bizarre-looking caterpillars now archived in the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.
"[...] Philip Howse has placed Moss in the context of rubber barons, deforestation, hardship, adventure and the changing political situation in the Amazon. This is a meandering (in the very best sense) work of history – entomological, political, philosophical, theological, sprinkled with fascinating quotes from a variety of sources. The author is congratulated on presenting a well-researched book of academic and historical value. It is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in adventure, entomology and the Amazon."
– John Tennent, Atropos 72, 2023