Saturday, June 17, 2017

New Titles

1) James, Matthew. Collecting Evolution: The Galapagos Expedition that Vindicated Darwin. 2017. Oxford University Press. Hardbound: 284 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: In 1905, eight men from the California Academy of Sciences set sail from San Francisco for a scientific collection expedition in the Galapagos Islands, and by the time they were finished in 1906, they had completed one of the most important expeditions in the history of both evolutionary and conservation science. These scientists collected over 78,000 specimens during their time on the islands, validating the work of Charles Darwin and laying the groundwork for foundational evolution texts like Darwin's Finches. Despite its significance, almost nothing has been written on this voyage, lost amongst discussion of Darwin's trip on the Beagle and the writing of David Lack.
     In Collecting Evolution, author Matthew James finally tells the story of the 1905 Galapagos expedition. James follows these eight young men aboard the Academy to the Galapagos and back, and reveals the reasons behind the groundbreaking success they had. A current Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, James uses his access to unpublished writings and photographs to provide unprecedented insight into the expedition. We learn the voyagers' personal stories, and how, for all the scientific progress that was made, just as much intense personal drama unfolded on the trip. This book shares a watershed moment in scientific history, crossed with a maritime adventure. There are four tangential suicides and controversies over credit and fame. Collecting Evolution also explores the personal lives and scientific context that preceded this voyage, including what brought Darwin to the Galapagos on the Beagle voyage seventy years earlier. James discusses how these men thought of themselves as "collectors" before they thought of themselves as scientists, and the implications this had on their approach and their results.
     In the end, the voyage of the Academy proved to be crucial in the development of evolutionary science as we know it. It is the longest expedition in Galapagos history, and played a critical role in cementing Darwin's legacy. Collecting Evolution brings this extraordinary story of eight scientists and their journey to life.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interested in the history of scientific exploration.

2) Smalley, Andrea L.. Wild by Nature: North American Animals Confront Colonization. 2017.  Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardbound: 334 pages. Price: $49.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the time Europeans first came to the New World until the closing of the frontier, the benefits of abundant wild animals―from beavers and wolves to fish, deer, and bison―appeared as a recurring theme in colonizing discourses. Explorers, travelers, surveyors, naturalists, and other promoters routinely advertised the richness of the American faunal environment and speculated about the ways in which animals could be made to serve their colonial projects. In practice, however, American animals proved far less malleable to colonizers’ designs. Their behaviors constrained an English colonial vision of a reinvented and rationalized American landscape.
     In Wild by Nature, Andrea L. Smalley argues that Anglo-American authorities’ unceasing efforts to convert indigenous beasts into colonized creatures frequently produced unsettling results that threatened colonizers’ control over the land and the people. Not simply acted upon by being commodified, harvested, and exterminated, wild animals were active subjects in the colonial story, altering its outcome in unanticipated ways. These creatures became legal actors―subjects of statutes, issues in court cases, and parties to treaties―in a centuries-long colonizing process that was reenacted on successive wild animal frontiers.
     Following a trail of human–animal encounters from the seventeenth-century Chesapeake to the Civil War–era southern plains, Smalley shows how wild beasts and their human pursuers repeatedly transgressed the lines lawmakers drew to demarcate colonial sovereignty and control, confounding attempts to enclose both people and animals inside a legal frame. She also explores how, to possess the land, colonizers had to find new ways to contain animals without destroying the wildness that made those creatures valuable to English settler societies in the first place. Offering fresh perspectives on colonial, legal, environmental, and Native American history, Wild by Nature reenvisions the familiar stories of early America as animal tales.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interested in American environmental history.

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