Paul Greenberg recently reviewed D. Graham Burnett’s The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century in the New York Times. Greenberg traces the arc, as told by Burnett, of the cetacean scientist from standing knee-deep in whale innards at the turn of the century to being newly enlightened by whale-ish complexity in the interwar years to fighting alongside other frustrated technocrats at the dawn of an age of international conservation to expanding the human and Cete mind in groovy ways amidst a backdrop of Cold War science. He comes away fascinated by the experience, but also wonders if the reading public wouldn’t benefit from something less that 793 pages, with footnotes for the footnotes (almost) —or actually, he wonders if the public wouldn’t benefit from more: a shortened version to accompany the encyclopedic one.
Read the review. You’ll encounter the characters who most capture Greenberg’s imagination: A. Remington Kellogg (the Prince of Whales) and John C. Lilly, both of whom are American scientists worth extended consideration.
(There’s a similar, but not so extensive, review at the Wall Street Journal.)
(Also, I haven’t seen the text yet, but it sounds like it has footnotes and not merely endnotes. I *love* footnotes. Am I alone here?)