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A remarkable behind-the-scenes look at the extraordinary people, meticulous research, and driving passions that make London’s Natural History Museum one of the world’s greatest institutions.

In an elegant and illuminating narrative, Richard Fortey takes his readers to a place where only a few privileged scientists, curators, and research specialists have been—the hallowed halls that hold the permanent collection of the Natural History Museum. Replete with fossils, jewels, rare plants, and exotic species, Fortey’s walk through offers an intimate view of many of the premiere scientific accomplishments of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Like looking into the mind of mankind and all the fascinating discoveries, ideas, and accomplishments that reside there, Fortey’s tour is utterly entertaining from first to last.
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About the author

Richard Fortey was a senior palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. His previous books include the critically acclaimed Life: An Unauthorized Biography, short-listed for the Rhône Poulenc Prize in 1998; Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution, short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2001; and The Hidden Landscape, which won the Natural World Book of the Year in 1993. He was Collier Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in 2002 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
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Published on
Aug 19, 2008
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Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
History / World
Science / Earth Sciences / Geology
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“This book is not just about a man of science but also about a scientific culture in the making—warts and all.” —The New York Times Book Review

Charismatic and controversial Swiss immigrant Louis Agassiz took America by storm in the early nineteenth century, becoming a defining force in American science. Yet today, many don’t know the complex story behind this revolutionary figure.
At a young age, Agassiz—zoologist, glaciologist, and paleontologist—was invited to deliver a series of lectures in Boston, and he never left. An obsessive pioneer in field research, Agassiz enlisted the American public in a vast campaign to send him natural specimens, dead or alive, for his ingeniously conceived museum of comparative zoology. As an educator of enduring impact, he trained a generation of American scientists and science teachers, men and women alike—and entered into collaboration with his brilliant wife, Elizabeth, a science writer in her own right and first president of Radcliffe College. But there was a dark side to his reputation as well.
Biographer Christoph Irmscher reveals unflinching evidence of Agassiz’s racist impulses and shows how avidly Americans at the time looked to men of science to mediate race policy. He also explores Agassiz’s stubborn resistance to evolution, his battles with a student—renowned naturalist Henry James Clark—and how he became a source of endless bemusement for Charles Darwin and esteemed botanist Asa Gray. “A wonderful . . . biography,” both inspiring and cautionary, it is for anyone interested in the history of American ideas (The Christian Science Monitor).
“A model of what a talented and erudite literary scholar can do with a scientific subject.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
A treasure trove of illuminating and entertaining quotations from the legendary naturalist

Here is Charles Darwin in his own words—the naturalist, traveler, scientific thinker, and controversial author of On the Origin of Species, the book that shook the Victorian world. Featuring hundreds of quotations carefully selected by world-renowned Darwin biographer Janet Browne, The Quotable Darwin draws from Darwin’s writings, letters to friends and family, autobiographical reminiscences, and private scientific notebooks. It offers a multifaceted portrait that takes readers through his youth, the famous voyage of the Beagle, the development of his thoughts about evolution, his gradual loss of religious faith, and the time spent turning his ideas into a well-articulated theory about the natural origin of all living beings—a theory that dangerously included the origin of humans.

The Quotable Darwin also includes many of the key responses to Darwin’s ideas from figures across the social spectrum, scientists and nonscientists alike—and criticism too. We see Darwin as an innovative botanist and geologist, an affectionate husband and father, and a lively correspondent who once told his cousin that he liked to play billiards because “it drives the horrid species out of my head.” This book gives us an intimate look at Darwin at work, at home, as a public figure, and on his travels.

Complete with a chronology of Darwin’s life by Browne, The Quotable Darwin provides an engagingly fresh perspective on a remarkable man who was always thinking deeply about the natural world.

Edward O. Wilson has described Dr. Gideon Lincecum as "an American original, expansive passionate, and prone to make science out of what he could see with his own eyes. His life illuminates an important era, and mood, in Texas history, and he ranks as one of America's major pioneering naturalists." A most remarkable man who found himself ill at ease in "polite and fashionable society," Lincecum preferred to keep company with "kindred forms, my brother emmets and my sister worms," observing and studying nature on the nineteenth-century Texas frontier. With almost no formal education, he nevertheless reported his observations of the natural world in richly detailed letters sent to leading contemporary scientists--such as Charles Darwin, Spencer Baird, Joseph Henry, and Elias Durand--and in essays published in both popular and scientific journals. His writings were typically marked by humor and wit, as he opted for an unorthodox approach in his scientific investigations, often arriving at startling conclusions. Gathered together here for the first time are selections from Lincecum's letters and other scientific writings, placed in context and ordered to provide a narrative account of this frontier naturalist's twenty-five-year investigation of Texas fauna, flora, landscape, and weather. From the mysterious qualities of native plants, both medicinal and poisonous, to the fearsome rapidity of the blue norther, turning summer to winter along the plains in a frigid instant, Gideon recorded what he saw and experienced in the wilds of the Texas frontier. His reports at times gave rise to controversy: his anthropomorphic observations of ants, attributing to the insects humanlike social and agricultural skills--a theory he made known in a letter to Darwin--is still referred to as the "Lincecum myth." Despite the debate that raged around some of his findings, he is considered one of the most important early American scientists. An expert on Texas grasses, he was consulted by farmers across the region interested in the best native grasses for their cattle. His interest in Texas grapes led to the naming of a bush grape, Vitis Lincecumii, for him. Little in the natural world escaped Gideon's attention and comment. Beautifully illustrated by Betsy Warren, his letters and other writings about many facets of Texas'--and, later, Mexico's--natural history remain informative to the modern reader, as well as delightful reading. Science on the Texas Frontier represents a significant contribution to the history of science in America during the middle nineteenth century and will be of great interest to natural historians and scientists, conservationists and environmentalists, as well as lovers of Texana and general readers fascinated with Western and scientific history
New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018

A New York Times Notable Book 

The #1 New York Times bestseller.

A brilliant and brave investigation into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs--and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences

When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists inadvertently catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research.

A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.
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