Science historian Daniel Lewis set out to write a biography of Robert Ridgway (1850–1929), the Smithsonian's first curator of birds. Apparently finding that material about Ridgway would not fill a book, Lewis used Ridgway to illustrate the transformation of ornithology from the lyrical, poetic, and artistic study of birds to a scientific discipline. The material provided by Lewis about Ridgway is rather flat and superficial. Little about the man's personality or temperament is given, other than a number of statements about his nearly crippling shyness. Perhaps this shyness, combined with the time-intensive production of two enormous works, a staggering number of papers, and a small mountain of popular literature, limited interaction with his colleagues, family, and friends; little is visible in this book. He apparently did not commit his thoughts to diaries or an extensive correspondence. A few mentions of constant struggle for...

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