One River

( 5 )


The story of two generations of scientific explorers in South America—Richard Evans Schultes and his protégé Wade Davis—an epic tale of adventure and a compelling work of natural history.

In 1941, Professor Richard Evan Schultes took a leave from Harvard and disappeared into the Amazon, where he spent the next twelve years mapping uncharted rivers and living among dozens of Indian tribes. In the 1970s, he sent two prize students, Tim Plowman and Wade Davis, to follow in his ...

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One River

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The story of two generations of scientific explorers in South America—Richard Evans Schultes and his protégé Wade Davis—an epic tale of adventure and a compelling work of natural history.

In 1941, Professor Richard Evan Schultes took a leave from Harvard and disappeared into the Amazon, where he spent the next twelve years mapping uncharted rivers and living among dozens of Indian tribes. In the 1970s, he sent two prize students, Tim Plowman and Wade Davis, to follow in his footsteps and unveil the botanical secrets of coca, the notorious source of cocaine, a sacred plant known to the Inca as the Divine Leaf of Immortality.

A stunning account of adventure and discovery, betrayal and destruction, One River is a story of two generations of explorers drawn together by the transcendent knowledge of Indian peoples, the visionary realms of the shaman, and the extraordinary plants that sustain all life in a forest that once stood immense and inviolable.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The prodigious biological and cultural riches of the vast Amazon rain forest are being lost at a horrendous rate, according to the author, often without yielding their secrets to the Western world. During his years in the South American jungle, ethnobotanist Davis The Serpent and the Rainbow has done much to preserve some of these treasures. He tells two entwined tales herehis own explorations in the '70s and those of his mentor, the great Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, beginning in the '30s. Both men have been particularly interested in the psychoactive and medicinal properties of the plants of the Amazon basin and approach their subject with a reverence for the cultural context in which the plants are used. The contrasting experiences of two explorers, a mere generation apart, starkly demonstrates how much has already been destroyed in the rain forest. Although Schultes probably knew more about Amazonian plants than any Western scientist, he was constantly learning of new ones and new uses for them from native experts. Davis graphically describes the brutal clash of cultures from Columbian times to the present, often so devastating for indigenous peoples, that has defined this region. At times humorous, at times depressing, this is a consistently enlightening and thought-provoking study. Photos not seen by PW. Sept.
Library Journal
While not technically a biography, this is the story of Timothy Plowman, a young ethnobotanist who died while looking for medicinal plants in the South American rain forests. The author, who explored with Plowman in 1974 and 1975, tells a vivid story of adventure, Amerindian culture, and, to a lesser extent, the social and political climate surrounding Harvard in the 1960s and 1970s. Plowman was the brilliant protg of Richard Evans Schultes, one of the world's leading authorities on hallucinogenic plants and the Amazon rain forest. The author mixes the backgrounds and travels of the two men with sociology of South American tribes and their sacred plants. Because use of hallucinogenic plants is described, this is not a book for young people. For adults, it's a fascinating story of ethnobotanical exploration and an excellent real-life tale of science out of the laboratory, and only peripherally the sad story of a brilliant life lost to AIDS (Plowman contracted the disease as a result of pretrip inoculations). It also reveals the effects of development on the dwindling rain forests and their endangered cultures. Recommended for large collections.Laura E. Lipton, Center for Urban Horticulture, Seattle
Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating narrative of the exploits of Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, interwoven with the much more benign adventure of his student, author and ethnobotanist Davis (The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1986).

Beginning in the middle 1930s and for the greater part of the next two decades, Schultes journeyed throughout the remote Amazonian jungle to study the psychoactive and medicinal plants used by its indigenous peoples. His discoveries—including the natural plant source for LSD—have filled the annals of ethnobotany and helped kick off the hallucinogenic era of the 1960s. Schultes survived beriberi, malaria, frequent capsizings, and airplane accidents. But perhaps his most adventurous and sometimes dangerous forays were into the psychoactive drug rituals of tribes located deep within the Colombian and Brazilian rainforests. Schultes was recruited by the US government in the late '30s to find and develop new, blight-resistant sources of rubber, a project that was foolishly abandoned, according to Davis, because of bureaucratic infighting and ineptitude. Faintly echoing Schultes's saga is Davis's account of his own 1970s expedition, when he accompanied the ethnobotanist Tim Plowman to the Andean regions of Peru and Colombia to collect specimans of coca and study its cultivation patterns; in the footsteps of their mentor, Schultes, both men sample the hallucinogenic effects of various potions, chew coca leaves, and find themselves in some dicey situations on mountain roads. These episodes are flavored with revealing histories of the brutal Spanish conquest and the more recent but equally gruesome enslavement of Indians to the rubber trade, and contain some sprightly written, at times dryly ironic travel prose. But Davis's own experiences pale by comparison with the main narrative and are interjected at seemingly random intervals.

Although Davis might have been better advised to scale down, this is an exceptional tale of 20th-century scientific exploration and a rousing travelogue to places both real and illusory.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684834962
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/28/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 303,668
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Wade Davis received his doctorate in ethnobotany from Harvard University and is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He is the author of many books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow and One River. He lives in British Columbia, Canada.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2007

    One River tought me something

    One River really tought me about the amazon and how different plants are used. Wade Davis shows the reader what you might now about the Amazon in a fascinating and exciting way. I never knew that so much of the amazon is really useful to people. It makes me think about how we shuold save the forest becuase who knows what plant we can find that may cure cancer. And the book showed me even the illegal use of plants such as the coca plant. Wade Davis wrote a great book that really opens your eyes to teh wonders and mystery that is the Amazon Forest. Its full of adventure, mystery and tribal indians. Its a book I would Recomend to any reader thats is interested into other cultures.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2003

    MY all-time favorite adventure book!

    I love adventure books, but this one transcends the genre to encompass aspects of history, ethnobotany, and sociology. It covers the author's own travels and those of his mentor, the famous ethnobotanist Richard Evans SChultes, who's work in the AMazon searching for new souces of rubber during the WWII shortages was a project every bit as secretive and ambitious in scope as the Manhattan Project. Adventure is always more interesting when it takes place as part of the pursuit of legitimate scientific ends rather than just pure thrillseeking. Davis's travels and those of his mentor rival anything in the literature, but what sends this book ocver the top is the luminous writing of the author and his fondness for both his work, the people he writes about and his mentor. THe only way to improve this book would have been for the author to add some maps! HIghly recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2003

    The Botanical Indiana Jones

    This is a fantastic book documenting the adventures of Wade Davis and his contemporaries through the South American rainforests in search of rubber, cocaine, and other plant commodities. Though it occasionally gets bogged down in superfluous historical anecdotes, it is nonetheless extremely educating AND entertaining. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2001

    Doccumented assurance modern medicine should be abolished

    A thrilling ride. Wade Davis takes the reader on a roller coaster of truths, clarifying the myths and lore surrounding the indigenous peoples of South America. Extremly informative, this book will broaden perspectives and change the associated necessities of modern society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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