John Hemming, one of the world’s leading experts on Brazilian Indians, the Amazon environment and the history of exploration, will talk about his new book: a fascinating account of the travels and travails of three English naturalists - Alfred Russel Wallace, Henry Walter Bates and Richard Spruce - who went to the Amazon 150 years ago. All three men, who had left school at 13 or 14 without any formal science training, were deeply interested in natural history. Their youthful enthusiasm for the subject led them to Brazil where each spent many years in Amazonia collecting and preserving flora and fauna, writing meticulous notes and drawings, before sending their specimens to their agent in London. Their forays along the great river in search of new plants and animals, required immense courage and stamina, particularly when they ventured into the trackless maze of the forest. Along the way, they encountered hordes of biting insects, dangerous rapids, malaria and thieving. But they were rewarded with their discovery of rare butterflies, monkeys, macaws, reptiles and extraordinary plant life. Hemming captures the distinct personalities of each man with vivid anecdotes about their discoveries and encounters. He shows why they became famous naturalists on their return to England, because of their time in the Amazon.
Dr John Hemming has been with forty-five indigenous peoples at all stages of contact. He has previously published a trilogy of books on the history of Brazilian Indians from 1500 to the present, as well as Tree of Rivers, the Story of the Amazon. He was Director of the Royal Geographical Society for twenty-one years and led the Maraca Rainforest Project, the largest European-led research project in Brazil.