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The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds Hardcover – March 12, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Lewis's masterful biography of Ridgway gives us insight into what it meant to be a biologist in the late 19th century. It fills a critical gap in our understanding of the emergence of the life sciences and the nature of the scientific profession."--Paul Farber, author of Discovering Birds and Finding Order in Nature

"The roots of all American bird enthusiasts trace squarely back to Robert Ridgway, and Lewis's account of Ridgway and the emergence of a modern ornithology in North America resonates and fascinates."--Kimball L. Garrett, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

"A major contribution to the history of natural history, history of museums, history of American science, as well as history of ornithology.... sets a fine standard for biographies that move beyond a narrative into analysis of intellectual and social currents in the field."--Pamela Henson, American University

"Deftly presented and deeply researched, The Feathery Tribe... fills an important gap in our understanding of the development of modern bird study, while restoring Ridgway to his rightful place of honor among the pantheon of American naturalists."--Mark V. Barrow, Jr., Virginia Tech

"This book does an excellent job of underlining the lasting value of Ridgway's work and those of his colleagues and rivals, and they form the basis of just about every aspect of modern bird study."—Martin Collinson, Birdwatch
(Martin Collinson Birdwatch 2012-09-01)

"Lewis weaves the story of Robert Ridgway and his ornithological career expertly through the historical context of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the emergence of modern ornithology. The book is full of interesting historical tidbits. . . This book belongs in every academic and museum library and should appeal to anyone with an interest in the historical roots of modern ornithology." —William E. Davis, American Ornithologist's Union
(William E. Davis American Ornithologist's Union)

"This is a welcome and thoroughly researched contribution to the history of ornithology in North America." —Richard Mearns, British Ornithologist's Union
(Richard Mearns British Ornithologist's Union)

"Lewis's account draws deeply and meticulously from a vast assortment of primary sources. As a museum curator himself, he insightfully highlights the values of objects—that is, the mortal remains of birds—as vital sources and the history and values of natural history museum. Lewis's voice is enthusiastic, straightforward, and sometimes even playful."—Julianne Lutz Warren, Environmental History
(Julianne Lutz Warren Environmental History 2013-07-01)

The Feathery Tribe introduces an important scientist along with his professional coterie and their struggles to establish ornithology in America . . . Lewis demonstrates the considerable value of scientific biography as historians continue to explore the significance of the field sciences to the history of science.”—Frederick R. Davis, Isis
(Frederick R. Davis Isis)

About the Author

Daniel Lewis is the Dibner Senior Curator of the History of Science and Technology and the Chief Curator of Manuscripts at The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. He lives in Pasadena.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (March 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300175523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300175523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,710,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book gives long due tribute to the shy, impassioned man, the Smithsonian's first curator of birds, who was so instrumental to the emergence of professional ornithology. It does so as it masterfully explores the history of that science. It also helps us better understand how science is practiced today, including tensions between indoor and outdoor work. Lewis helps us to appreciate what it took for bird-lovers to cross the bridge from old school natural history, suffused with belief in the immutability of species, to Darwinian evolutionary theory. He makes us appreciate the massive amount of exhausting, meticulous work that went into classification and clarifying names of species at this crossroads. One of the other aspects I loved about this book is how it deepened my interest in the values of objects--in this case, the mortal remains of birds--as vital sources and the history and values of natural history museums. In addition to major works of bird classification and nomenclature of North American birds, Ridgway also crafted a fascinating volume on color-classification, all of which have had and continue to have wide-reaching influence in modern ornithology and other fields as well. As not only a scholar, but also a birder, this book has enriched my own passions.
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