Richard Conniff on 'The Species Seekers'

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During the early 1800s, when the word “scientist” had yet to be coined, a fever for novel animals and plants swept Europe and led dozens of crazed amateurs to the most alien places on earth in search of specimens. You know the names of some of these adventurers; one would become a president of the United States. But even those whose names have been forgotten by most of us lived lives of great adventure, and sometimes great foolishness.

Richard Conniff has written a new book researching these early scientific explorers called “The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth.” He joins us by phone from Connecticut.