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The Species Seekers

Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth

Richard Conniff (Author)

Overview | Editions | Formats

The story of bold adventurers who risked death to discover strange life forms in the farthest corners of planet Earth.

Beginning with Linnaeus, a colorful band of explorers made it their mission to travel to the most perilous corners of the planet and bring back astonishing new life forms. They attracted followers ranging from Thomas Jefferson, who laid out mastodon bones on the White House floor, to twentieth-century doctors who used their knowledge of new species to conquer epidemic diseases. Acclaimed science writer Richard Conniff brings these daredevil "species seekers" to vivid life. Alongside their globe-spanning tales of adventure, he recounts some of the most dramatic shifts in the history of human thought. At the start, everyone accepted that the Earth had been created for our benefit. We weren't sure where vegetable ended and animal began, we couldn't classify species, and we didn't understand the causes of disease. But all that changed as the species seekers introduced us to the pantheon of life on Earth—and our place within it.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • November 2010
  • ISBN 978-0-393-06854-2
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 480 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverThe Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth


Endorsements & Reviews

“This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story.” — Wall Street Journal

“[Conniff’s] enthusiasm for his subject and admiration of these explorers is infectious . . . an entertaining survey.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[This] history of the ‘great age of discovery’ is spellbinding.” — Publishers Weekly

“An anecdotal romp through the strange history of naturalism. Absurd characters, exciting discoveries, and fierce rivalries abound.” — Outside Magazine

“An enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes.” — New Scientist

“A swashbuckling romp…brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era.” — BBC Focus

“Modern biology and medicine would not be what they are today if not for the death-defying naturalists who set out to travel the world and find new species. In The Species Seekers, Richard Conniff creates a marvelous rogues’ gallery of these brave, sometimes reckless heroes of taxonomy, full of surprising tales of gorillas, platypuses, and disease-laden mosquitoes.” — Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex

“A marvelous tribute to the age of wonder.” — Bernd Heinrich, author of The Nesting Season

Also by Richard Conniff All

  1. Book CoverThe Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide


  2. Book CoverSwimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals