Cover image for Early American naturalists : exploring the American West, 1804-1900
Early American naturalists : exploring the American West, 1804-1900
Moring, John, 1946-
Personal Author:
First Cooper Square Press edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Cooper Square Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 241 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH26 .M66 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This historical work chronicles the lives, adventures, and discoveries of America's great explorer/naturalists-Lewis & Clark, Martha Maxwell, John James Audubon, John Muir and others.

Author Notes

John Moring (1946-2002), professor of zoology at the University of Maine

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Moring (Men with Sand), a professor of zoology at the University of Maine, examines the lives of several explorers who documented American flora and fauna during the 19th century. He begins with the work of Lewis and Clark, who were charged not only with opening up new territories, but also collecting samples and drawings of the unfamiliar North American wildlife. Moring details the efforts of later naturalists, including Englishman Thomas Nutall (who studied the lives of birds and was so badly bitten by mosquitoes during his explorations of the Delaware coast that people assumed he had smallpox); Charles Wilkes, a navy officer who explored the Pacific coast; and the legendary painter of birds, John Audubon. Moring discusses naturalists' increasing reliance on photography (rather than drawings), the development of natural history museums (before which wildlife specimens were kept in laboratories and universities for scientific study only) and the evolution of naturalism itself over the course of the century. Instead of scrutinizing discreet specimens, the "New Naturalists," exemplified by conservationist John Muir, became interested in ecology as a living whole. "Instead of merely collecting a plant or animal for later study, naturalists of the late nineteenth century would sit for hours watching a bird construct a nest." These biographical sketches make for an absorbing and accessible if somewhat narrowly focused survey that should please those with a bent for natural history. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Moring (zoology, Univ. of Maine; Men with Sand: Great Explorers of the American West) profiles the 19th-century naturalists who trekked across the continent from 1804 to 1900, tracing how the nature of their work changed over the century. As exemplified by Lewis and Clark, many of these early explorers were self-trained amateur naturalists; their expeditions were followed by similar government-sponsored trips that included trained scientists and skilled artists like John James Audubon and Titian Peale. And then came the new naturalists, best represented by John Muir, whose goal was not to collect but to explain humanity's place in nature. Encyclopedic in style, this book is filled with adventure and introduces the reader to many lesser-known, early American naturalists. Recommended for college and larger public library environmental history collections.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley Coll., Mt. Carmel, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This well-written and wide-ranging account by Moring (1946-2002; zoology, Univ. of Maine) describes the work of many naturalists active in the US during the 19th century. He combines the stories of well-known figures, including Lewis and Clark, John Audubon, and John Muir with discussion of others principally remembered today by specialists, such as Charles Lesueur and Constantine Rafinesque. Natural history was a challenging and often dangerous pursuit for those who were involved in it. Research facilities were limited in number in the earlier years. A few naturalists were well-to-do but most had limited resources; many worked alone. They were sometimes pursued and occasionally killed by Indians; their specimen collections were often ruined by the elements, eaten by insects, or lost when vessels foundered on inland rivers or on the high seas. The federal government could not manage the materials brought back by federally sponsored expeditions until after the US National Museum opened in 1850. Moring concludes with Florence Merriam Bailey (1864-1948), an ornithologist whose career continued into the 1930s. No footnotes; incomplete bibliography. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. K. B. Sterling formerly, Pace University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Chapter 1 The Early Naturalistsp. 1
Part 1 Traveling in the Wild Lands
Chapter 2 Lewis and Clark: Enthusiastic Amateursp. 9
Chapter 3 Peter Custis and the Red River Expeditionp. 29
Chapter 4 Thomas Nuttall and the Wilderness Collectorsp. 48
Chapter 5 Thomas Say and Edwin James: The Long Expeditionp. 69
Chapter 6 Visitors from Europep. 89
Part 2 Collectors and Interpreters
Chapter 7 Wilkes's "Scientifics"p. 111
Chapter 8 The Painterp. 124
Chapter 9 In the Field before the Great Warp. 136
Chapter 10 Collecting the Westp. 160
Part 3 The New Naturalists
Chapter 11 Martha Maxwell and Her Museump. 171
Chapter 12 John Muir and the New Naturalistsp. 187
Chapter 13 Digging Up Bonesp. 201
Chapter 14 The New Enthusiastic Amateursp. 217
Further Readingp. 227
Indexp. 231