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History Americas

Sightseers & Scholars

Scientific Travellers In The Golden Age Of Natural History

by (author) Stephen R. Bown

Key Porter Books
Initial publish date
Oct 2002
Americas, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2002
    List Price

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Sightseers and Scholars provides portraits of the explorers and naturalists who sought to explore the New World in the pre-Darwinian Age. The late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe and America saw the dawn of a golden age of science in which society energetically sought to quantify, categorize, and rationally explain the world. The accurate cataloguing of nature was one of the goals of the age, and most plants and animals known today were collected, classified, and named in a great frenzy of scientifically-motivated exploration. Until the publication in 1859 of Darwin's The Origin of Species, it was believed that there was a finite number of species on the planet and through diligent effort all of nature might be collected and then studied. Sightseers and Scholars profiles nine important naturalists-both dedicated professionals and amateurs-who set off for what is now North and South America to discover and document the natural wonders they found there. Their stories of adventure are punctuated with hardship, both in finding the financing to get their ventures off the ground, and the vagaries of the elements once they reached the New World, be it North or South America. Despite the odds, these explorers, either travelling with artists or as artists themselves, chronicled their adventures in both words and pictures, providing a unique portrait of the natural world in North, South and Central America before it became widely settled. Many of the species observed or discovered still bear the names of the explorers who discovered them (the Stellar Sea Lion, Douglas Fir, Townsend's Finch). Written with insight, the sometimes wry, always fascinating, text entertains the modern reader with the adventures of: William Bartram, Alexander Von Humboldt, Charles Waterton, Prince Maximillian of Wied, David Douglas, John Townsend, John Richardson, Henry Bates and John Powell

About the author

Stephen R. Bown was born in Ottawa and studied history at the University of Alberta. He has long been interested in early travellers and explorers. In the summer of 2001 he hiked for seven days to retrace the famous Scottish botanist David Douglas' route over the feared Athabasca Pass. A former multimedia projects producer and freelance writer, Bown contributes to several magazines, including "Alaska, Mercator's World", "Beautiful British Columbia", and "The Beaver". He is also the author of "Sightseers and Scholars: Scientific Travellers in the Golden Age of Natural History". Bown lives outside Calgary, Alberta, with his wife and son.

Stephen R. Bown's profile page

Other titles by Stephen R. Bown