Part autobiography, part case study in the ways of field biology, this book is an account of a scientist's life and work. For the author, it is an opportunity to report not just his results but the curiosity, humour, error, passion and competitiveness that feed the process of discovery. His stated purpose is to "tell about the natural links forged between one's life and a life in science", and this volume, illustrated with prencil drawings, combines biographical details with an economic-ecological approach to flora and fauna.
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(235mm x 155mm x 12mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Heinrich is quintessentially the curious naturalist, happiest when stalking the odd bird, pursuing caterpillars, or observing "rafts" of whirligig beetles along a lakefront. In this charming and stylish volume, he combines biographical details with his economic-ecological approach to flora and fauna - embellishing the whole with precisionist pencil drawings. The German-born zoologist (now at the U. of Vermont) spent his earliest years escaping from Russian-occupied areas. His family eventually settled in the woods, gathering mushrooms and other edibles to exchange for goods in town. Father was already a collector of rare birds for museums, so young Heinrich clearly grew up in the naturalist tradition. Once in the US, he describes his early academic career and a thesis on thermoregulation in insects, the opposite of a senior scientist's. Heinrich postulated - correctly - that certain moths maintained constant temperature in flight (despite changing air temperatures) by dissipating heat generated by flight muscles. This approach - how species have evolved to use energy economically - later developed into the basis of his impressive Bumblebee Economics (1979). Now Heinrich pursues the same kind of time-motion-energy-survival questions across a broader variety of creatures. We follow his reasoning in examining whirligig behavior, in a variety of predator/prey interactions, in studies of the gaudy caterpillars that taste bad and the cryptic caterpillars that use camouflage. An underlying theme is the co-evolution of species, the sense of the inter-relatedness that has created the complex economy of the natural world. This comes to the fore especially in the title chapter, in which Heinrich describes the burned-out patch on his Maine farmland that sees a succession of growth and invaders beginning with the airborne seeds of fireweed. Finally, the bumblebees descend to drink the fireweed nectar - and to inspire Heinrich's magnum opus. To be read and savored for the writing, the drawings, and the science. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Bernd Heinrich
Bernd Heinrich is Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont. He has written several memoirs of his life in science and nature, including One Man's Owl, and Ravens in Winter. Bumblebee Economics was twice a nominee for the American Book Award in Science, and A Year in the Maine Woods won the 1995 Rutstrum Authors' Award for Literary Excellence.