Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin

& others. Princeton Univ. 2014. 544p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691151977. $45. NAT HIST
This is the best history of ornithology ever. Most others are dated, focus on a limited period, or concern defined geographical areas. Birkhead (zoology, Univ. of Sheffield; Fellow of the Royal Society; Bird Sense), Jo Wimpenny (postdoctoral research associate, Univ. of Sheffield) and Bob Montgomerie (biology, Queens Univ., Ont.) explain the often complex, theoretical, or detailed schools of thought and research about birds in entertaining and authoritative ways. Their four-and-a-half-pound monograph is richly illustrated and thoroughly referenced. Chapters deal with evolution, ecology, anatomy, physiology, behavior, breeding, population studies, etc. Colorful full-page time lines have illustrations and citations with images of key scientists in those various fields. An appendix has thumbnail information about 500 ornithologists with photographs of 54. Discussions of personalities, controversies, research methods, and honors make the text a lively read. There are numerous autobiographical sketches, each several pages. Hundreds of these remarkable scientists receive consideration, including Jared Diamond, Konrad Lorenz, Roger Tory Peterson, and E.O. Wilson. What might have been a clunky, laborious catalog of often arcane academic endeavors is instead very readable and comprehensible, as well as comprehensive.
VERDICT Most highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries and for all interested in nature and science.
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