Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America (Google eBook)

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University of Chicago Press, Oct 15, 2009 - Science - 184 pages
7 Reviews

In the years after the Revolutionary War, the fledgling republic of America was viewed by many Europeans as a degenerate backwater, populated by subspecies weak and feeble. Chief among these naysayers was the French Count and world-renowned naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, who wrote that the flora and fauna of America (humans included) were inferior to European specimens.

Thomas Jefferson—author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. president, and ardent naturalist—spent years countering the French conception of American degeneracy. His Notes on Virginia systematically and scientifically dismantled Buffon’s case through a series of tables and equally compelling writing on the nature of his home state. But the book did little to counter the arrogance of the French and hardly satisfied Jefferson’s quest to demonstrate that his young nation was every bit the equal of a well-established Europe. Enter the giant moose.

The American moose, which Jefferson claimed was so enormous a European reindeer could walk under it, became the cornerstone of his defense. Convinced that the sight of such a magnificent beast would cause Buffon to revise his claims, Jefferson had the remains of a seven-foot ungulate shipped first class from New Hampshire to Paris. Unfortunately, Buffon died before he could make any revisions to his Histoire Naturelle, but the legend of the moose makes for a fascinating tale about Jefferson’s passion to prove that American nature deserved prestige.

In Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose, Lee Alan Dugatkin vividly recreates the origin and evolution of the debates about natural history in America and, in so doing, returns the prize moose to its rightful place in American history.

  

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Review: Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America

User Review  - Adam Rabiner - Goodreads

Lee Dugatkin and I were playground teachers together in the early 80s and he was kind enough to reconnect with me through social media and send me an autographed copy of his latest book. As a ... Read full review

Review: Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America

User Review  - Rachael Carmen - Goodreads

Click here to read my published book review. Read full review

Contents

1 Dictatorial Powers of the Botanical Gentlemen of Europe
1
2 The Counts Degenerate America
10
3 Noxious Vapors and Corrupt Juices
31
4 Not a Sprig of Grass That Shoots Uninteresting
47
5 Geniuses Which Adorn the Present Age
62
6 Enter the Moose
81
7 ThirtySevenPound Frogs and Patagonian Giants
101
8 Extracting the Tapeworm of Europe from Our Brain
117
Acknowledgments
131
Notes
133
Reference List
153
Index
159
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Lee Alan Dugatkin is professor of biology at the University of Louisville and author of The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness and Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees: The Nature of Cooperation in Animals and Humans, among other books.

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