Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World

Overview

When the first platypus specimen reached England from Australia in 1799, the scientific community claimed that it was a hoax. On closer investigation, dubious European naturalists eventually declared it to be real, though in an age obsessed with classification, the category-defying platypus sparked heated debates across Europe for a century. In Platypus, Ann Moyal provides a unique biography of one of the world's most famously strange creatures and tells the incredible story of how it became the focus of the ...

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Overview

When the first platypus specimen reached England from Australia in 1799, the scientific community claimed that it was a hoax. On closer investigation, dubious European naturalists eventually declared it to be real, though in an age obsessed with classification, the category-defying platypus sparked heated debates across Europe for a century. In Platypus, Ann Moyal provides a unique biography of one of the world's most famously strange creatures and tells the incredible story of how it became the focus of the great scientific debates of the nineteenth century. Eloquent and concise, Platypus uncovers the earliest theories and latest discoveries about this delightfully odd member of the animal kingdom.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist

A great account of how a small furry animal managed to challenge biology's beliefs.

Christian Science Monitor

Engaging... In recounting the story of how the platypus was studied and eventually classified, Moyal explains that it became entangled in broader debates over taxonomy and evolution among the wise men of European science.

Nature
If any animal has mystery and charisma, it is the platypus. This book tell its story, and it's a winner... It has something for everyone—the excitement of a detective story, the history of biological ideas... Everybody will enjoy this book, and the story continues to unfold... Read it and enjoy.

— David Penny

Booklist

A spirited and eminently readable account of this odd Australian mammal that follows the story of its discovery, the scientific infighting over its place in taxonomy, and modern efforts to understand its biology and keep and breed it in captivity.

New York Resident

Moyal's sublime Platypus traces the wild and raucous history of the antipodean creature's introduction to the world. Part history, part mystery, Platypus details how the European scientific community was able to understand this Australian oddity... As remarkable and delightful as its bizarre subject.

Quarterly Review of Biology

Moyal affectionately examines the scientific history of one of nature's most fascinating oddities.

Science Books and Films

A fascinating 'biography' of the bizarre and unusual creature known to taxonomists as Ornithorhynchus.

Wildlife Activist

It is a good read.

Nature - David Penny

If any animal has mystery and charisma, it is the platypus. This book tell its story, and it's a winner... It has something for everyone—the excitement of a detective story, the history of biological ideas... Everybody will enjoy this book, and the story continues to unfold... Read it and enjoy.

KLIATT
This book about one of the world's most unique animals is written at an academic level, but is clear enough for a serious young person to read. It is filled with beautiful illustrations and drawings, and there is even a story from the Australian aborigines about this animal. The reader will learn not only about the platypus, but also the history of science in categorizing living beings. Moyal includes remarkable stories about some giants in the naturalist field, such as Charles Darwin, George Bennett and J.T. Wilson, which brings a human touch to the story. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 226p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 12 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801880520
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Moyal is a historian of science. She has held research and teaching positions at a number of universities and is the founder and past president of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia. She lives in Canberra.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Introduction xi
1 'This Highly Interesting Novelty' 1
2 The Frenchmen's Gaze 19
3 Marshalling the Animals 31
4 The Wrangling Scientists 48
5 The Land of Contrarieties 61
6 The First Hard Look 74
7 The Paper War 89
8 Darwin's Platypus 102
9 To the Antipodes 115
10 The Clash of Titans 130
11 Solving the Mystery 141
12 The New Men 158
13 'The Platypus Man' 167
14 The Platypus Goes to War 180
15 'The Animal of All Time' 186
Glossary 206
A Word on Sources 209
Illustrations 215
Index 219
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