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Natural History  Review   

Journeys Through Paradise:
Pioneering Naturalists in the Southeast
by Gail Fishman
University Press of Florida, 2001
ISBN:  0-8130-1874-9
 

Almost everyone is familiar with the explorations of Juan Ponce de Leon and Hernando de Soto through the southeastern United States; but the thirteen naturalists whose trips are retraced in Journeys Through Paradise have left records of more profound discoveries, then the search for the mythical Fountain of Youth.

The naturalists catalogued and collected native plant and animal life.  The findings of John James Audubon and John Muir are common knowledge.  But the sojourns of the lesser known naturalists are equally fascinating in this text.  As a native Georgian, the chapter on botanist Hardy Bryan Croom, who used Biblical writings to match flora to prove his belief that Eden was located in Georgia and the garden was in Florida, enchanted me.  Georgiaís Okefenokee swamp was preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge by the actions of naturalist brother team Roland and Francis Harper.

Gail Fishmanís writing style draws in the reader.  Enhanced with photographs and maps, the naturalistsí treks are brought to life as she physically retraces their route and discusses the changes to the region since the original writings.  She passionately describes what has been lost and what is being done to preserve that which remains. 

I challenge all high school curriculums to add Journeys Through Paradise as required reading for courses in American History or Science.  The book is excellent for introducing students to the variety of environmental and preservation careers.  Gail Fishman has written an interesting history and travelogue of southern natural history.  Itís a journey youíll never forget.  

Gail Fishman has worked for the Florida Defenders of the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Audubon Society.  She is a volunteer for the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and helped form the St. Marks Refuge Association.

 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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