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Naturalists at Sea [Kindle Edition]

Glyn Williams
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On the great Pacific discovery expeditions of the “long eighteenth century,” naturalists for the first time were commonly found aboard ships sailing forth from European ports. Lured by intoxicating opportunities to discover exotic and perhaps lucrative flora and fauna unknown at home, these men set out eagerly to collect and catalogue, study and document an uncharted natural world.


This enthralling book is the first to describe the adventures and misadventures, discoveries and dangers of this devoted and sometimes eccentric band of explorer-scholars. Their individual experiences are uniquely their own, but together their stories offer a new perspective on the extraordinary era of Pacific exploration and the achievements of an audacious generation of naturalists. Historian Glyn Williams illuminates the naturalist’s lot aboard ship, where danger alternated with boredom and quarrels with the ship’s commander were the norm. Nor did the naturalist’s difficulties end upon returning home, where recognition for years of work often proved elusive. Peopled with wonderful characters and major figures of Enlightenment science—among them Louis Antoine de Bouganville, Joseph Banks, John Reinhold Forster, Captain Cook, and Charles Darwin—this book is a gripping account of a small group of scientific travelers whose voyages of discovery were to change perceptions of the natural world.

Editorial Reviews


 “An erudite and beautifully illustrated work, Naturalists at Sea wears its learning lightly, and conveys to non-specialists an array of fascinating details about explorers and naturalists, familiar and not-so-familiar, quoting judiciously from their journals and post-voyage publications . . . every page testifies to the indomitable vitality of both explorers and naturalists.”—Andrew Robinson, Nature
(Andrew Robinson Nature 2013-10-10)

“This fascinating tale is told across time, ships, captains and crews, and the countries that sent or received these scientific travelers, naturalists who brought their skills and weaknesses to documenting the natural world during the Enlightenment and beyond. Williams. . . does all the hard work of making these lives and adventures comprehensible.”—Library Journal
(Library Journal)

“An extraordinary and entertaining catalog of maritime and scientific endeavor.”—Michael Fathers, The Wall Street Journal

(Michael Fathers The Wall Street Journal)

"[A] fascinating work . . . This well-illustrated book will interest a wide audience."—Choice

About the Author

Glyn Williams is emeritus professor of history, University of London. He is the author of more than a dozen books on European voyages of exploration.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1998 KB
  • Print Length: 329 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 030018073X
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 15, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EZ22C5U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,661 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book is a fascinating recounting of the role of about ten naturalists who were on voyages to the far reaches of the earth from that by William Dampier in 1679 to Charles Darwin 1836. Naturalists often accompanied voyages of exploration. In the early voyages, they had minimal space for their collections, and they were lucky if their collections made it to Europe. Often they had associates who would make drawings of the flora or fauna they found. Many times the expeditions met with the indigenous inhabitants, sometimes with positive outcomes, sometimes not. The naturalists were lucky if they could publish reports of their findings before they died. In several cases, the plates of their drawings were only published in the past two decades. By the time Darwin accompanied the Beagle, the value of naturalists was generally recognized, and Darwin had the full support of Captain Robert FitzRoy.
My interest in the book was heightened since I was a NASA atmospheric scientist who went on many airborne field missions to the ends of the earth from 1990 to 2002, visiting many of the Pacific islands visited by the early naturalists. The scientists were in charge of the missions, and the natives were friendly. Our scientific findings were published within two years of our missions. Times have changed.
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A comprehensive inventory of scientific voyaging, but the storytelling element in the writing is missing. Nathaniel Philbrick is better at relating these kinds of stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous work September 23, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting collection of intelligent men during dangerous and valuable research in the vast and largely unknown Pacific.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars December 7, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed it thoroughly; well written .
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