Sunday, September 30, 2012

Schultes, Plowman and Davis

One River by Wade Davis combines the story of Richard Evan Schultes, the great pioneer of ethnobotany, with the story of Davis and his colleague Timothy Plowman, a generation later (that last link is behind a paywall). The book is a great introduction to the Amazon, but also to the scientific study of plants with the help of the indigenous peoples who use them everyday. The systems of knowledge used to classify and combine a huge variety of plants in the Amazon contain a tremendous amount of information, but that information is not necessarily organized and deployed in the same way that it has been in a biological understanding of plant life.

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