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Finding Order in Nature

The Naturalist Tradition from Linnaeus to E. O. Wilson

Paul Lawrence Farber

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Since emerging as a discipline in the middle of the eighteenth century, natural history has been at the heart of the life sciences. It gave rise to the major organizing theory of life—evolution—and continues to be a vital science with impressive practical value. Central to advanced work in ecology, agriculture, medicine, and environmental science, natural history also attracts enormous popular interest.

In Finding Order in Nature Paul Farber traces the development of the naturalist tradition since the Enlightenment and considers its relationship to other research areas in the life sciences…

Since emerging as a discipline in the middle of the eighteenth century, natural history has been at the heart of the life sciences. It gave rise to the major organizing theory of life—evolution—and continues to be a vital science with impressive practical value. Central to advanced work in ecology, agriculture, medicine, and environmental science, natural history also attracts enormous popular interest.

In Finding Order in Nature Paul Farber traces the development of the naturalist tradition since the Enlightenment and considers its relationship to other research areas in the life sciences. Written for the general reader and student alike, the volume explores the adventures of early naturalists, the ideas that lay behind classification systems, the development of museums and zoos, and the range of motives that led collectors to collect. Farber also explores the importance of sociocultural contexts, institutional settings, and government funding in the story of this durable discipline.

"The quest for insight into the order of nature leads naturalists beyond classification to the creation of general theories that explain the living world. Those naturalists who focus on the order of nature inquire about the ecological relationships among organisms and also among organisms and their surrounding environments. They ask fundamental questions of evolution, about how change actually occurs over short and long periods of time. Many naturalists are drawn, consequently, to deeper philosophical and ethical issues: What is the extent of our ability to understand nature? And, understanding nature, will we be able to preserve it? Naturalists question the meaning of the order they discover and ponder our moral responsibility for it."—from the Introduction

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Finding Order in Nature

Paul Lawrence Farber

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Reviews

Reviews

The history of natural history can rarely have been as succinctly told as in Paul Lawrence Farber's 129-page Finding Order in Nature. From the intellectual revolutions of Linnaeus and Darwin through the Victorian obsessions with classifying and collecting, to the conservationists led by E. O. Wilson, it is an odyssey beautifully told.

Farber artfully compresses into one small, engaging volume the span of natural history as a field of study from its beginnings in the 18th century to the present day... What results is truly an introduction to the subject... a concise work that gives the general reader a solid understanding.

Farber does an impressive job of demonstrating how practitioners like Linnaeus, Buffon, Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier advanced the field and set the stage for the development of science as we know it today... [An] estimable volume.

Broadly charts the intellectual, epistemological, aesthetic, and cultural work of the naturalist tradition—from the great eighteenth-century systematic nomenclators Linnaeus and Buffon, through the nineteenth-century evolutionary theorists Darwin and Wallace, to contemporary American entomologist Edward O. Wilson. It reflects a generalist sensibility and is valuable precisely because its scope is broad and its story compelling.

In this exciting and innovative book, Paul Farber provides a sweeping synthesis of the development of natural history over the previous two and a half centuries. Anyone hoping to come to terms with the meaning and place of natural history in the modern world will definitely want to start with this book.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
152
ISBN
9780801863905
Illustration Description
15 halftones, 7 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Collecting, Classifying, and Interpreting Nature: Linnaeus and Buffon, 1735–1788
Chapter 2. New Specimens: Transforming Natural History into a Scientific

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. Collecting, Classifying, and Interpreting Nature: Linnaeus and Buffon, 1735–1788
Chapter 2. New Specimens: Transforming Natural History into a Scientific Discipline, 1760–1840
Chapter 3. Comparing Structure: The Key to the Order of Nature, 1789–1848
Chapter 4. New Tools and Standard Practices, 1840–1859
Chapter 5. Darwin's Synthesis: The Theory of Evolution,1830–1882
Chapter 6. Studying Function: An Alternative Vision for the Science of Life, 1809–1900
Chapter 7. Victorian Fascination: The Golden Age of Natural History, 1880–1900
Chapter 8. New Synthesis: The Modern Theory of Evolution, 1900–1950
Chapter 9. The Naturalist as Generalist: E. O. Wilson, 1950–1994
Epilogue
Suggested Further Reading
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Paul Lawrence Farber, Ph.D.

Paul Lawrence Farber is OSU Distinguished Professor of History of Science, Emeritus, at Oregon State University and author of Discovering Birds: The Emergence of Ornithology as a Scientific Discipline, 1760–1850 and Finding Order in Nature: The Naturalist Tradition from Linnaeus to E. O. Wilson, both also published by Johns Hopkins.