Post by exoticimports on Sept 11, 2020 6:23:43 GMT -8
I have a habit of perusing the closeout-style bookstores for obscure, often poor selling, biographies.
Through these bios, I've been introduced to the most incredible, and oft-forgetten, leaders in science, politics, and military actions. Incredible people- often deceased- who long ago were on the front page of newspapers, were household names, but are now long forgotten.
Raymond Ditmars is a perfect example. In "Bushmaster", author Eatherly introduces us to the once-famous and now forgotten first curator of reptiles at the Bronx Zoo. Within, he intersperses his own adventures while researching the book.
This book is about snakes. But, at the time, insects were also in vogue, so are frequently discussed, albeit without the level of detail. Though you, the reader, is an entomologist, and presumably not a herpatologist, don't let that dissuade you.
Taking us through the youth and development of Mr. Ditmars, the advent of the Bronx Zoo, and scientific maturation during a spectacular period, we get a glimpse of how it was. Rattlesnakes on Manhattan; the wilds and farms of Queens and Bronx- a time when the concrete jungle hadn't consumed everything, and when science was more powerful than a regulatory environment.
It's a spectacular read, for any environmentalist or entomologist. Go back in time, meet the innovators, revel in unrestricted science. I recommend it to anyone.
It's generally available for about $25 from Abe Books and Amazon. I found it for $5.99 about half-hour away, they may have more copies- if anyone is interested, let me know and I'll see if they still have some, shipping probably another $3 to US locations.
I still have my copy of Ditmars' Reptiles of North America, and occasionally refer to it. He was an interesting person - I'll have to look for this bio book. I had no idea he was such a dapper-looking individual!
I seem to recall that it was Ditmars who was once bitten on a finger by a Gaboon viper; he gave a detailed account of the effects and recovery in a book on "Snakes of the World", or a similar title. I think I have that one too. I recall it containing a photo of about 20 men holding a gigantic anaconda; one of the group looks a whole lot like Theodore Roosevelt. TR famously did travel in Brazil, but it'd seem odd for Ditmars to not identify him on the photo.
This post reminds me of a book I recovered from my grandfather's attic after he passed away in 1982. I put it on a bookshelf and still haven't read it after all this time, but now I will. The book is "Strange Animals I Have Known", by Ditmars. It was published in 1931.