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This book features Louis Agassiz's seminal lecture course in which the Swiss-American scientist, a self-styled American Humboldt, summarized the state of zoological knowledge in his time. Though Darwin's theory of evolution would soon dismantle his idealist science, Agassiz's lectures are nonetheless modern in their insistence on the social and cultural importance of the scientific enterprise. An extensive, well-illustrated introduction by Agassiz's biographer, Christoph Irmscher, situates Agassiz's lectures in the context of his life and nineteenth-century science, while also confronting the deeply problematic aspects of his legacy. Profusely annotated, this edition offers fascinating insights into the history of science and appeals to anyone with an interest in zoology and natural history. Christoph Irmscher provides a scholarly and insightful analysis of the intentions and beliefs of Louis Agassiz, a larger-than-life scientist of the mid-19th century and fierce opponent of Charles Darwin. One of the foremost naturalists of his time, Agassiz's encyclopedic knowledge and brash confidence sustained bold and often controversial theories, which contributed to extreme intellectual ferment at the dawn of contemporary evolutionary biology. James Hanken, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Harvard University, USA
Louis Agassiz sheds insight into Brazil's history: his travels took place in the 1860s, when the country was undergoing great change as an Empire and grappling with its this development. The author offers accounts of a Brazil now lost to time; observations of the urban culture and life, and the natural habitat of the countryside and forests, offer immense insight into the era. Most of the text is written as a narrative diary, wherein Agassiz observes and describes traversing colonial-era Rio de Janeiro, the city of Manaus, the Amazon river, various villages, and the vast rainforests. As a zoologist, Agassiz's interest in the wildlife present in Brazil form a recurring theme. However, the text is careful not to dwell on matters obscure or scientific; while the author at work, he also covers matters of culture and day-to-day life. Anecdotes include Brazil's Emperor Pedro II arranging room chairs that he sits equally with other attendees - reasoning that science does not distinguish people by position.