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Kingdom of Ants

José Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World

Edward O. Wilson and José M. Gómez Durán

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One of the earliest New World naturalists, José Celestino Mutis began his professional life as a physician in Spain and ended it as a scientist and natural philosopher in modern-day Colombia. Drawing on new translations of Mutis's nearly forgotten writings, this fascinating story of scientific adventure in eighteenth-century South America retrieves Mutis's contributions from obscurity.

In 1760, the 28-year-old Mutis—newly appointed as the personal physician of the Viceroy of the New Kingdom of Granada—embarked on a 48-year exploration of the natural world of northern South America. His thirst…

One of the earliest New World naturalists, José Celestino Mutis began his professional life as a physician in Spain and ended it as a scientist and natural philosopher in modern-day Colombia. Drawing on new translations of Mutis's nearly forgotten writings, this fascinating story of scientific adventure in eighteenth-century South America retrieves Mutis's contributions from obscurity.

In 1760, the 28-year-old Mutis—newly appointed as the personal physician of the Viceroy of the New Kingdom of Granada—embarked on a 48-year exploration of the natural world of northern South America. His thirst for knowledge led Mutis to study the region's flora, become a professor of mathematics, construct the first astronomical observatory in the Western Hemisphere, and amass one of the largest scientific libraries in the world. He translated Newton's writings and penned essays about Copernicus; lectured extensively on astronomy, geography, and meteorology; and eventually became a priest. But, as two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Edward O. Wilson and Spanish natural history scholar José M. Gómez Durán reveal in this enjoyable and illustrative account, one of Mutis's most magnificent accomplishments involved ants.

Acting at the urging of Carl Linnaeus—the father of taxonomy—shortly after he arrived in the New Kingdom of Granada, Mutis began studying the ants that swarmed everywhere. Though he lacked any entomological training, Mutis built his own classification for the species he found and named at a time when New World entomology was largely nonexistent. His unorthodox catalog of army ants, leafcutters, and other six-legged creatures found along the banks of the Magdalena provided a starting point for future study.

Wilson and Durán weave a compelling, fast-paced story of ants on the march and the eighteenth-century scientist who followed them. A unique glance into the early world of science exploration, Kingdom of Ants is a delight to read and filled with intriguing information.

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Kingdom of Ants

Edward O. Wilson and José M. Gómez Durán

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Reviews

Edward O. Wilson, one of those rare scientists who can make biology and science history not only readable but entertaining, has written a book that holds the reader's attention from beginning to end.

By coupling excerpts from Mutis's forgotten diaries with recent findings on ant eating habits, reproductive behaviors, and emigration patterns, the authors give new relevance to one of the New World's oldest natural history studies. This interesting writing technique helps readers understand the continual nature of the process of scientific inquiry.

A unique glance into the early world of science exploration, Kingdom of Ants is a delight to read and filled with intriguing information.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5.5
x
8.5
Pages
120
ISBN
9780801897856
Illustration Description
7 color illus., 5 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Prologue
1. Who Was Mutis?
2. The Making of an Eighteenth-Century Naturalist
3. The Scientific Contributions of José Celestino Mutis
4. Mutis Seeks Advice
5. Mutis Begins His Study of Ants
6. Ants Are

Prologue
1. Who Was Mutis?
2. The Making of an Eighteenth-Century Naturalist
3. The Scientific Contributions of José Celestino Mutis
4. Mutis Seeks Advice
5. Mutis Begins His Study of Ants
6. Ants Are Transported by Ships
7. Ant Plants and Plant Ants
8. Mutis Learns about the Mule-Train (Leafcutter) Ants
9. Unending Struggles against the Mule-Train Ants
10. Ant Wars
11. Mutis Solves the Mystery of the Nomadic Pataloas
12. Mutis Measures the Size of an Army-Ant Colony
13. Mutis Tracks the Armies of Ants
14. Mutis Studies the Gender of Ants and Makes an Amazing Discovery
15. Mutis' Other Ants
16. How Good a Scientist Was Mutis?
Epilogue
Acknowledgments

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.

Edward O. Wilson is an entomologist and biologist known for his pioneering work on evolution and sociobiology, and is often referred to as the father of sociobiology and modern biodiversity studies. He has authored many books, including Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975), On Human Nature (winner of a 1979 Pulitzer Prize), The Ants (winner of a 1991 Pulitzer Prize), Consilience: The Unity of...
Featured Contributor

José M. Gómez Durán

José M. Gómez Durán is one of the founding members of the Iberian Myrmecological Association and a researcher with the Spanish Institute for Agriculture and Food Research and Technology (INIA).