The Nature of Natural History
Princeton science library
This classic work is an exploration of what natural history is, and a sustained effort to see how it relates to other areas of biology. Marston Bates did not attempt to overwhelm his audience with facts or overinterpret those he did use, and, perhaps for this reason, The Nature of Natural History is a timeless work. The author's genuine interest in the tropics has a very current feeling, and the first ten or fifteen chapters of the work have a style that is parallel to that of David Attenborough's verbal presentations of nature. From the book: "I have already made several remarks about the connection between parasitism and degeneracy. I suspect this is a matter of point of view. We are predatory animals ourselves, and consequently admire the characteristics of predationagility, speed, cunning, self-reliance. We feel a certain kinship with the lion, and regard the liver fluke with horror. If a sheep were given the choice, though, it might prefer to be debilitated by liver flukes rather than killed by a lion."
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"It is a charming and well-written work by an American mandarin with an appreciation of history.... The book ... helps us to understand the scientific mind and the attraction of natural history."--"Archives of Natural History"
For the science-minded reader, this should provide an excellent bird's-eye view of natural history - that area of biology exploring the relationships of living things to each other and to their environment in time and space. Beginning with a brief summary of the principal divisions of plants and animals, their differing modes of reproduction and development, various factors are then discussed - promoting or hindering the survival of the various forms of living things - temperature, olimete, water, food, etc., being the inanimate factors while the great variety of constructive, neutral and hostile relationships are the animate factors. This, the main body of the book, terminates in an analysis of evolution, its probable mechanism, and the several schools of scientific and philosophical thought that have developed from it. A final section treats of naturalists themselves, both professional and amateur, and of the scientific method in theory and practice. The author, a research biologist on the staff of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation, and the son-in-law of David Fairchild, has done an extremely good job of achieving sprightliness without glibness and, by honestly labelling his own small orotohets and biases, manages to maintain a consistent objectivity throughout. A well-chosen bibliography, with brief descriptions, will be useful to the reader interested in going more deeply into the fields discussed herein. (Kirkus Reviews)