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One River: Explorations And Discoveries In The Amazon Rain Forest 1st Edition

78 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684808864
ISBN-10: 0684808862
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Editorial Reviews Review

Richard Evans Schultes was arguably this century's foremost botanist and the father of ethnobotany--the study of plants and medicinal knowledge of indigenous peoples. He inadvertently inspired the 1960s drug culture with the publication of his scholarly journals on hallucinogenic plants. A meticulous scientist, his research on Columbia's rubber-producing hevea trees led to America's mass-production of rubber during World War II, which ultimately contributed to victory. Davis, one of Schultes's most devoted students, recounts the great botanist's life--from his research along hundreds of miles of forested rivers and his jungle treks while shattered by malaria to his intuitive gift with Amazon shamans and his relationship with such cult figures as Timothy Leary and William Burroughs.

From Publishers Weekly

The prodigious biological and cultural riches of the vast Amazon rain forest are being lost at a horrendous rate, according to the author, often without yielding their secrets to the Western world. During his years in the South American jungle, ethnobotanist Davis (The Serpent and the Rainbow) has done much to preserve some of these treasures. He tells two entwined tales here?his own explorations in the '70s and those of his mentor, the great Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, beginning in the '30s. Both men have been particularly interested in the psychoactive and medicinal properties of the plants of the Amazon basin and approach their subject with a reverence for the cultural context in which the plants are used. The contrasting experiences of two explorers, a mere generation apart, starkly demonstrates how much has already been destroyed in the rain forest. Although Schultes probably knew more about Amazonian plants than any Western scientist, he was constantly learning of new ones and new uses for them from native experts. Davis graphically describes the brutal clash of cultures from Columbian times to the present, often so devastating for indigenous peoples, that has defined this region. At times humorous, at times depressing, this is a consistently enlightening and thought-provoking study. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (September 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684808862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684808864
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jim Breitinger on March 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
"One River" will take you on a journey that you will never forget. It will introduce you to one of the twentieth century's most remarkable men--Richard Evans Schultes, as well as one of the world's most fascinating places--the Amazon.
The book is the story of the work of Schultes and two of his students, including the author Wade Davis. It will take you as close as you can ever be to lost cultures and lost ecosystems along with cultures and ecosystems that are very much endangered. Wade Davis is a champion of both human and ecological diversity. "One River" is probably the most eloquent testament to ethnic and biological diversity I've ever read.
As the modern world encroaches on every last nook and cranny of this beautiful earth, "One River" serves as a primer about what once was and about the price we pay as we lose one more species, or one more human culture forever.
This book is an adventure story. It is a story of incredible academic accomplishment. The term academic, with its connotations of being hopelessly removed from the real world does not apply here. Schultes and his students could not be more connected to the real world.
"One River" is the story of man and nature and how the two interact, each forever changing the other. Read this book and then tell your friends about it. While it is hard to make such a claim (there are so many good books), I'd have to say this is my favorite book.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on November 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anyone still doubting the superiority of truth over fiction need only take this book to a quiet corner and start reading. Wade Davis relates the stories of two Richards, Schultes and Spruce, plus his own in their respective excursions in the upper Amazon. Schultes, Davis' Harvard mentor, spent many years there seeking medicinal plants and new sources of rubber when access to Asian resins were lost during World War II. No work of fiction, including Hollywood's almost trifling account in the film Medicine Man, can match the scope of what Schultes accomplished during his extensive travels. Schultes had the good sense to approach the Native American shamans with respect, dealing with them on their terms and not as a latter-day conquistador. They responded to his inquiries in kind, leading to countless new medicines for treating our "civilized" illnesses. He became a "depswa" - medicine man - sharing their rituals while gaining knowledge. Davis is able to use his close relationship with Schultes to provide an engrossing and detailed account of Schultes' career in the bush.
The second Richard is Schultes' own model. Richard Spruce came to the Upper Amazon from mid-Victorian England. Prompted by an inestimable source, Charles Darwin's account of the Beagle voyage, Spruce entered the Amazon country in 1849. Few of the celebrated explorers in Africa in the same period can match the perils Spruce faced and dealt with. As did his follower Schultes, Spruce avoided the overbearing colonialist image - his desires were achieved by finding new medicinal plants. Spruce dealt with the dispensers of drugs and their tales of visions incurred as an equal. In their turn they imparted valuable information leading to useful medicines.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
I know nothing about ethnobotany, but am a fan of adventure and sociology narratives about people and places. Davis merges these two themes with history, biography and writing that is so lyrical and heartfelt that his passion for his subject comes across on every page. Documenting his own explorations and those of his mentor, the famous ethnobotanist Richard SChultes, DAvis depicts the beauty and mystery that is the Amazon, and does it in an era when the area was yet to be despoiled by man and his pursuit of resources. I love adventure travel, but reading about real-life adventures that are done not for mere thrill seeking but have legitimate scientific, cultural and other values is always much more rewarding than reading adventure for its own sake. I have read this book three times and anticipate its appeal again drawing me back to its pages. Quite simply, this is one of the great books in the genre, and Davis is a great writer in any genre.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "jumarther" on April 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This will be a very short review on a book that has long been with me. While working on a reproductive biology macaw research project climbing into the canopy of the Amazon each day for 3 months i found ONE RIVER one night piled amongst the research literature. Even though i had the Amazon literally ground into my bones after so many days of hard labor i could not put this book down each night reading by candle. Could one gourge on steak then still enjoy reading about cattle? This is simply a fascinating, and most well written book on arguably the most complex wonderful ecosystem as experienced by a most hard working curiously gifted individual. Do your soul a favor and read this book 5 times!!!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kristy Dark on October 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Take one vast, timeless rain forest. Season with sacred plants. Add thousands of Indians and one intrepid explorer. Cook at tropical temperature for 12 years. The astonishing and tasty result is Wade Davis' ONE RIVER.
In the late 1930's, Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes was responsible for major scientific breakthroughs regarding plant hallucinogens in Mexico. His next field assignment, to identify botanical sources of the deadly arrow poison, curare, immersed Schultes in the savage beauty of the Colombian rain forest and its indigenous Indian cultures. Totally captivated, Schultes remained there for the next 12 years.
This true story of Schultes' explorations is compelling, and he's a guide we gladly follow. Quietly heroic, Schultes thinks nothing of paddling thousands of miles down uncharted rivers, navigating white-water rapids that bend his boat in half, stepping on poisonous snakes, and contracting near-fatal tropical diseases. All the Indians he encounters accept him with alacrity, and within a few hours he is often half-naked, painted and feathered, ingesting sacred plants, singing and dancing with his new friends until the dawn. Not exactly what one expects from a politically ultra-conservative Harvard academician.
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