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The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A…

The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the… (2016)

by Darrin Lunde

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Theodore Roosevelt lived an exuberant, boisterous life and this book focuses on his interest in natural history collection and preservation. Roosevelt was a self-proclaimed hunter naturalist, who stalked and killed birds and animals. Today you can view many of them at the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Some people are horrified by the slaughter; 296 by the former President and another 216 by his son Kermit on a 1909-1910 Smithsonian sponsored expedition to Africa. Roosevelt lived in a different era. He viewed hunting as a noble sport and believed that he did not hunt simply for killing. ( )
  eduscapes | Feb 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Solid and focused biography. Rather timely with the current political climate and concerns for the care of our natural parks with the demands of energy and industry. You will find a nice lens into Roosevelt that will probably lead you in a search for additional biographies to learn as much as you can about this man. ( )
  adamps | Dec 6, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book provided a good overview of the development of natural history in the United States and the important role that President Roosevelt played in its promotion and acceptance. It is not a presidential biography. I enjoyed the style and flow of the book, following Roosevelt's hunter-naturalist career across the decades and continents.

Throughout his life Roosevelt enjoyed exploring the natural world and studying animals. From a young boy suffering from asthma but with a desire to be in nature he learned to shoot and prepare birds and small animals for study and display. When he grew up he became concerned for the disappearing American wilderness and sought ways to protect the remaining remote regions.

Roosevelt clearly enjoying stalking and hunting big game, even while he championed preserving the habitats and endangered species they held. Like other reviewers have said, I found the paradox unnerving. The descriptions of the hunts are graphic and there is not much scientific data included. He knew certain species were all but extinct and yet he still hunted them so him museum could have good specimens to display in the future. Roosevelt was a very important figure in the scientific field, but the contradiction of his life's work left me without a clear understanding of the man himself. I enjoyed the book, but I felt like there was something more to be said on reconciling the two viewpoints. ( )
  kkunker | Nov 17, 2016 |
Teddy Roosevelt was both a conservationist and a hunter. This always seemed like a paradox to me, and although the author attempts to explain why it is not, or at least why it wasn't in TR's mind, I'm still left perplexed. The author shows us why collecting physical specimens of animals is important for scientific classification and study. I get that. I also understand why these were needed for museum exhibits, especially in TR's time. There was no other adequate means to present these animals to the public, and TR felt it was important for people to see and appreciate them as he did. He had a lifelong fascination with the natural world, untamed wilderness, and wildlife. He wanted to see it and understand it, and he wanted others to as well. When he hunted, it wasn't just to collect corpses, he was also observing and recording behavior. He wanted to understand as much as he could about these animals. He knew that some, (such as American bison, African elephants, and white rhinoceroses) were in decline and could become extinct, and this thought disturbed him. He couldn't stop it from happening, so he did what he could. He killed them so their skins could be stuffed and exhibited. At least this way people in the future could know what had been lost. I can even understand that, in a way.

What I still have difficulty with is his attitude toward hunting. I can easily understand why he enjoyed stalking animals in their natural habitats, observing their behavior, and sharing what he learned with others. That all makes sense to me. I can even understand how he could derive satisfaction from obtaining good specimens for display. But given his clear interest in, and even love of, wildlife, I would think he would regard the deaths of these animals as unfortunate but necessary. Apparently this was not the case. To him, hunting wasn't an unpleasant duty. He derived pleasure from it. He enjoyed killing them. In my mind, this is beyond strange, so the paradox of TR remains.

( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I loved reading this. I knew somewhat about TR's love of nature, but not of his serious and studious approach to it. Definitely a book I would recommend to anyone interested in natural history OR in presidential history, to get a new look at a very well examined life. ( )
  dhelmen | Sep 6, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 030746430X, Hardcover)

The surprising story of our “naturalist president” Theodore Roosevelt and how his lifelong passion for the natural world set the stage for America’s wildlife conservation movement
No United States president is more popularly associated with nature and wildlife than Theodore Roosevelt—prodigious hunter, tireless adventurer, and ardent conservationist. We think of him as a larger-than-life original, yet in The Naturalist, Darrin Lunde has located Roosevelt in the proud tradition of museum naturalism.  From his earliest days, Roosevelt actively modeled himself on the men who pioneered a key branch of biology through the collection of animal specimens and by developing a taxonomy of the natural world. The influence they would have on Roosevelt shaped not only his audacious personality but his career, informing his work as a statesman and ultimately affecting generations of Americans’ relationship to this country’s wilderness.
Drawing on Roosevelt’s diaries and expedition journals and pulling from his own experience as a leading figure in today’s museum naturalism, Lunde constructs a thoughtfully researched, singularly insightful history that tracks Roosevelt’s maturation from exuberant boyhood hunter to vital champion of serious scientific inquiry.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 04 Jan 2016 22:50:17 -0500)

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