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Constantine Samuel Rafinesque: A Voice in the American Wilderness Hardcover – July 23, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Warren's easy style combined with Rafinesque's always entertaining, if not somewhat tragic, adventures make for a quick and informative read."―Academia

"A well-written book about a fascinating and misunderstood naturalist. . . . All readers interested in the people who practice science will enjoy it. Recommended."―Choice

"The reader comes away from this work satisfied that Rafinesque at last has found the biographer he deserves. . . . Will interest all those curious about science in early America"―Indiana Magazine of History

"A balanced and informative biography."―Journal of the History of Biology

"Well-organized and engagingly written-Warren has done impressive research into all of Rafinesque's endeavors: botany, zoology, ethnography, linguistics, geography."―Karen Reeds, Princeton Research Forum

"Rafinesque was plagued by the flaws of his personality, often undone by the sheer breadth and depth of his interest. . . . An engaging academic biography of a sad enigma."―Lexington Herald-Leader

"A comprehensive and readable biography of this remarkable and complex man."―Northern Kentucky Heritage

"One of the most exhilarating characters in American frontier history, a legend in scientific circles rivaled only by Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyon, Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone in others."―Southern Seen, Clarksville (VA) News-Progress, Union City (TN) Messenger, Woodfo

About the Author

Leonard Warren, M.D., Ph.D., Institute Professor at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philadelphia and American Cancer Society Research Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is the author of Joseph Leidy: The Last Man Who Knew Everything and Adele Marion Fielde: Feminist, Social Activist, Scientist.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (July 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081312316X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813123165
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,282,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Charles Boewe on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Botanists will be surprised to learn from this book that "almost none" of the roughly 6,700 Latin plant names devised and published by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840) "were listed in any botanical indices, including the comprehensive Index Kewensis" (p. 63). B. D. Jackson, the editor of that great compendium, did miss a few, but I occasionally take down the two folio volumes of my facsimile reprint of the 1895 Index and, as an exercise in bibliomancy, invite a skeptic to insert his finger at random between any two of its 1,299 pages. "I'll bet you money, marbles, or chalk," I challenge the doubter, "that somewhere among the six columns of tiny type on those two pages you will find a plant name attributed to Rafinesque." I have never lost the bet.

Sadly, misinformation such as this about the Index Kewensis characterizes this long-awaited biography. Next to Audubon, Rafinesque has had more written about him than any other American naturalist of his time, but a competent book-length biography has not yet been published. Issued in parts, 1893-95, the two-volume Index Kewensis was completed in England the same year that the first life of Rafinesque was assembled by Richard Ellsworth Call in Kentucky. The product of Call's effort has been considered a book because its large type, wide line spacing, broad margins, and extra thick paper puffed it up to resemble a book. The author himself modestly called it a "brochure." In 1911, T. J. Fitzpatrick prefaced a 50-page "Sketch of his life" to the Rafinesque bibliography he had lovingly compiled, and the resulting book often was called a biography by reviewers who had little interest in bibliography. Finally, for Transylvania University's 1940 centennial commemoration of Rafinesque's death, Francis W.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Avi Hathor, M. S., M.F.A. on August 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This biography is of great interest to anyone interested in famous Kentuckians. Rafinesque was among the earliest scientists in the Commonwealth, and he was interested in nearly everything. Perhaps his major interest was botany, but he collected fossils, Indian artifacts, and shells. He wrote a huge number of books and articles, including a most interesting one on the fish of the Ohio River. He wrote on planting vineyards in America, and a Materia Medica of American plants. He was particularly interested in languages, and held theories linking the American tribes with other linguistic groups in Europe and Asia. He began the first botanical garden in Kentucky at Lexington, which was chartered by the state legislature. He left a memoirs of his travels and scientific work in Europe and North America.

He was a professor at Transylvania University and was influential in the professional lives of a number of its alumni, though many of them considered him an odd fish, as did Audubon when he met him. The author of this book also considered him, for all his genius and originality, to be a psychologically unstable individual. His tomb is found today in the crypt at Transylvania, though he left a curse upon the university because the president fired him after an argument.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the best book ever. Rafinesque is cool. He is cool and named plants. I love Rafinesque. (...).
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