When it comes to people from history about whom I never tire of reading, Theodore Roosevelt is right up at the top of my list. Whether it be his self-development from a sickly boy into the famously robust man he became, his fascinating and unconventional political life, or his many and varied outdoor adventures, T.R. was a boundless source of interesting material for authors. Which is why my interest was immediately piqued by word of a new book from University of Chicago Press by Michael R. Canfield titled Theodore Roosevelt in the Field.
Three naturalists walk into the world’s largest tropical rainforest… No, it’s not the set-up for what could indeed be a pretty good natural science joke (with a punchline that includes the phrase “Good thing Spruce brought the tonic water!”); rather it’s the beginnings of a series of adventures that would yield some of the most significant scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.
Long before John James Audubon began to chronicle the wildlife of North America in his paintings, Mark Catesby had already undertaken such a project and as a result produced The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.
While Audubon may be the name most commonly associated with early ornithology in the U.S., there were other naturalists who were hard at work before him documenting the birdlife to be found in the newly founded country, foremost among them was Alexander Wilson.