By John Hemmings
London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 2015
Naturalists in Paradise recounts how Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates and Richard Spruce, young English naturalists, went out to the Brazilian Amazon in 1848/49. Although of humble backgrounds and with only primary schooling, they taught themselves and became the finest British scientists to work in Amazonia throughout the 19th century. Between them they spent 30 years in the field, and their collections, scientific discoveries, and writings were prodigious. They also made some valuable ethnographic observations, particularly among Tukano- and Baniwa-speaking peoples of the Uaupes river, including pioneering work on hallucinogenic plants and rock engravings. They impressed their contemporary Charles Darwin and the great Harvard botanist Richard Evans Schultes – and I had great fun writing about this admirable trio. – John Hemmings
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