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A Gathering of Wonders Hardcover – June 10, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (June 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312252218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312252212
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,577,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Founded in 1869 and opened to the public in 1877, the American Museum of Natural History has been both a much-beloved New York institution and an important center of international scientific research in many fields--notably, paleontology, herpetology, ornithology, entomology, botany, and anthropology. The museum's eminence in these and other areas has come from many sources, from generous patrons to death-defying field researchers and patient laboratory workers. It continues to grow, writes Joseph Wallace in this close-up view of the work of the museum and its staff, as the AMNH involves itself in such matters as the conservation of Komodo dragons, the genetic study of unisex lizards, the surprisingly controversial classification (or, better, reclassification) of the world's birds, and the cataloguing of artifacts of lost species and cultures.

As visitors tour the halls of the museum, taking in images of Siberian shamans and Texas dinosaurs and countless other wonders, they will find many of these points mentioned in the placards that accompany each exhibit. Joseph Wallace's book can be thought of as a set of learned, highly readable footnotes to these placards--a fine companion for a tour, to be sure, but also a lively survey of the many sciences that enter into that great institution's work. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Generations of New Yorkers and visitors have marveled at the American Museum of Natural History's best-known sights: a life-size blue whale, bolted to a ceiling as if airborne; a 75-times-bigger-than-life-size mosquito; gemstones gleaming like science's own crown jewels; rock slabs from volcanoes and meteorites; and most recently, a gee-whiz, digital-age planetarium. Science writer Wallace (The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaur) describes the AMNH through its most famous, colorful or important scientists and administrators, from the 1880s to the 1970s. Carl Akeley (1864-1926), taxidermist, sculptor and early crusader for Africa's endangered mammals, showed the American public that mountain gorillas weren't vicious, then fought to save the gorillas' Congo habitat. Richard van Gelder planned and designed the famous whale. (At one point the museum planned instead to show a "dead" and "beached" whale on the floor.) Hardworking, reserved Mary Cynthia Dickerson (1866-1923), "a shining example of the self-made naturalist," founded the museum's department of herpetology (reptiles). Among more recent eminences who've worked for the museum, Wallace covers Ernst Mayr (an expert on birds and on evolution) and paleontologist Niles Eldredge (of "punctuated equilibrium" fame; see review of his The Triumph of Evolution, above). Not a scholarly work, Wallace's account, which has a crazy-quilt feel with many small entries on this and that, is almost entirely admiring, with never an expos? and rarely a caveat. Dedicated AMNH fans might enjoy this neat tribute to researchers and educators, but even they will be better served by Douglas Preston's superb history of the museum, Dinosaurs in the Attic (1983). (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Newsflash: I'm thrilled to announce that Berkley Books will publish THE SLAVEMAKERS, my sequel to INVASIVE SPECIES, in 2015!

I've been an author for more than two decades, yet I never seem to do the same thing twice. Magazine articles about science and health, books on dinosaurs and baseball, noir short stories, a novel about a baseball-playing teenage girl in 1920s Brooklyn, and now...INVASIVE SPECIES, an end-of-the-world thriller featuring a scientifically believable monster. (In other words, no vampires!).

INVASIVE SPECIES was a blast to write. I loved being able to use some of the fascinating--not to mention creepy--facts I've learned during my early career as a writer specializing in science, natural history, and the environment. In doing so,

I've also contributed stories to collections ranging from BRONX NOIR to THE PROSECUTION RESTS; I was honored when my story "Custom Sets" was selected for inclusion in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010. More recently, I placed a story in the latest Mystery Writers of America anthology, ICE COLD (edited by Jeffrey Deaver), and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

My first novel, published in 2010, was DIAMOND RUBY, the one about the Brooklyn girl with mad baseball skills. Now, with INVASIVE SPECIES, I'm taking readers on a whole new adventure. I hope you'll come along!

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dwight D. Schmidt on August 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book, especially if, as most New Yorkers, the book's author included, you spent a lot of time at the Natural History Museum as a kid. Who would know of all the goings on there over the decades if someone didn't take the time to research it and get it all out there for you? The best thing about the book it that its an easy read-- nothing is dived into too deeply and the book moves fairly quickly from one story to another, each very different. The museum obviously must have many stories; for instance I noticed there was no reference to the famous Vladimir Nabokov who worked there, and the scientists at AMNH who finished his fascinating work on butterflies-- told in an entire, intriguing, book "Nabokov's Blues" only this year. But there are good sections on other celebrities connected to the museum, Margaret Mead, Roy Chapman Andrews etc. and many more recent or, accept to scientists, more obscure scientists and explorers. Thus, the book appears to have been somewhat selective in its topics, but a big history undoubtedly dictated this. Another good thing about the book its that it weds themes to stories; you get your share of conservation and other required awarenesses here. If the Natural History museum has always fascinated you, you'll enjoy this book. Re the museums history, keep in mind the Nabokov's Blues story above and, for kids, the writings for youth done by Roy Chapman Andrews-- Quest in the Desert; Quest for the Snow Leopard. These are classics and also full of memorabilia about the museum.
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