Nabokov's Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius

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Zoland Books, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 372 pages
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Vladimir Nabokov had no formal training in biology, but during the 1940s he was an acknowledged expert on "Blues," a family of butterflies that inhabit some of the remotest parts of Latin and South America. In 1945 he published a radical new classification of Blues, a paper that initially caused a stir in the rarified field of lepidoptery. However, it was fifty years before scientists followed up on his pioneering work. Part biography and part detective story, "Nabokov's Blues" explores the rich and varied place butterflies hold in Nabokov's fiction, as well as far-reaching questions of biogeography and evolution, and the worldwide crisis of ecology and biodiversity.
"A view of Nabokov's science and art that is both eerily evocative and stunningly new, that makes delectable reading without patronizing the reader."-Dmitri Nabokov
"Vivid and varied, surprising and thoughtful, wry and poignant, "Nabokov's Blues" will appeal to anyone with a taste for adventure and contrast."-Brian Boyd
Chapter: The Most Famous Lepidopterist in the World
"Frankly, I never thought of letters as a career. Writing has always been for me a blend of dejection and high spirits, a torture and a pastime-but I never expected it to be a source of income. On the other hand, I have often dreamt of a long and exciting career as an obscure curator of lepidoptera in a great museum..."-Vladimir Nabokov, "Strong Opinions"
Lepidoptery, the branch of science dedicated to the study of butterflies and moths, has its own legendary figures, and its history is both long and glorious. But for lepidopterists, as in fact for most entomologists, the light of celebrity seldom shines outside a narrow but passionatecircle of scientists and collectors.
During the Age of Exploration, when the influx of exotic new plants and animals from the four corners of a seemingly boundless globe astounded Europe, the study of biology, often a preserve of the well-born, offered a path to wealth and fame. Sir Joseph Banks, the 18th century English biologist who accompanied Captain James Cook on his three-year circumnavigation aboard the British ship Endeavor, was a friend of King George III and one of the most fam

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User Review  - syaffolee - LibraryThing

This took me a little while to get through because it’s about a subject that I know very little about (I majored in biology, but all my classes were molecular in nature)–butterfly taxonomy. I really ... Read full review

Nabokov's blues: the scientific odyssey of a literary genius

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Interest in Nabokov has been kept up in recent years by such work as Boyd's monumental two-volume biography and Stacy Schiff's V ra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). These two new studies will only enhance ... Read full review


The Most Famous Lepidopterist in the World 3
A Tricky Subject
A Legendary Land

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About the author (1999)

Kurt Johnson, Ph.D. is a widely published lepidopterist and a foremost expert on Vladimir Nabokov's lepidoptery. It was during his 15-year association with the American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, that he and his colleagues took up the research on Blues where Nabokov left off.

Steve Coates is an editor at "The New York Times" and the author of numerous articles and reviews on cultural topics for the "Times" and "The Wall Street Journal".

Coates is an editor at The New York Times.

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