Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...

See more details below
Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose: Natural History in Early America

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price
(Save 44%)$18.00 List Price

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Sierra Club

"If you want a shot of environmental patriotism, this book is a good choice."
Financial Times
Fast-paced, snappy and suspenseful.

— Emmanuelle Smith

Choice

"A fascinating and very readable account of a controversial natural history issue in early nineteenth century America."
American Scholar
A scrupulously researched and well-told narrative.

— Miranda Weiss

David Hull

“For those of us who think that science is international, Lee Alan Dukatin’s Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose will come as a shock. In this case it was anything but. It was the French against the Americans, Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon versus Thomas Jefferson, in a dispute over the relative degree of degeneracy exhibited by the flora and fauna of the Old and New Worlds. According to Buffon, American plants and animals, including native Americans, are merely degenerate versions of European forms. Jefferson attempted to counter this Eurocentric chauvinism by displaying an American moose that was larger than any of the European ungulates—the giant moose in the title of this fascinating book.”—David Hull
Michael Ruse

“This fascinating book combines a deep knowledge of biology with a love of American history to tell a story that grips like a thriller. Lee Alan Dugatkin introduces you to Thomas Jefferson and the giant moose, an animal so great and imposing that never again could the belittling naturalists of Europe assume that American natural life was inferior.  Sparkling on the surface, profound beneath the waters, this is a book that will be happy reading for people of all interests and ages.”—Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and Its Discontents
Financial Times - Emmanuelle Smith

"Fast-paced, snappy and suspenseful."
American Scholar - Miranda Weiss

"A scrupulously researched and well-told narrative."
The Barnes & Noble Review
This lively tromp through 17th- and early-18th-century Euro-American relations hinges on unraveling the mysteries surrounding one strange and telling event: that one of Thomas Jefferson's important diplomatic moves as president of the nascent United States was to send the Comte de Buffon, the leading European naturalist of the day, the remains of a seven-foot moose skeleton. Why? Because de Buffon had written an enormous natural history tract arguing that America's bad air, foul swamps, and measly flora and fauna would never amount to anything. Buffon was dissing the North American continent and by extension the fledgling U.S. by calling the land, its people, and its animals degenerate. Not so, Jefferson argued, wanting to paint Buffon as a buffoon: You may have all of Europe, but you know, we have the moose. Yeah! Take that!!!! Our moose is bigger, Europe, than your reindeer. Eat your words, Count.

In fact, eventually this act did help undo the so-called "degeneracy" theory. And the act of sending the moose butressed the claims that Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia staked in arguing for European audiences how rich the resources of the as yet unexplored New World really were. Dugatkin is clearly enamored of praising Jefferson, and casts the moose sending as an early act of patriotism. Unfortunately, this cheery retelling surrounds a glaring blind spot which Dugatkin barely touches. It's hard reading this book not to think of the people Jefferson himself wrote about as less human than the rest: Africans. However entertaining moose-sending is, this book would be an immensely more fascinating re-examination of natural history if Dugatkin Jefferson's own thoughts about racial degeneracy fit more fully their own ambivalent context. --Tess Taylor

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226169194
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 184
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface: “A Moose More Precious Than You Can Imagine”

1.   “Dictatorial Powers of the Botanical Gentlemen of Europe”

2.   The Count’s Degenerate America

3.   “Noxious Vapors and Corrupt Juices”

4.   “Not a Sprig of Grass That Shoots Uninteresting”

5.   “Geniuses Which Adorn the Present Age”

6.   Enter the Moose

7.   Thirty-Seven-Pound Frogs and Patagonian Giants 

8.   “Extracting the Tapeworm of Europe from Our Brain”

Acknowledgments

Notes

Reference List

Index 

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Very Slow Going Much like the speed of a Moose!!!

    Did not enjoy -found it very tedious to get through the chapters and finally gave up!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 21, 2011

    Great Book

    Excellent book if you are a lover of history and science.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)