A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by Diana Preston

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Darwin took his books aboard the Beagle. Swift and Defoe used his experiences as inspiration in writing Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe. Captain Cook relied on his observations while voyaging around the world. Coleridge called him a genius and "a man of exquisite mind." In the history of exploration, nobody has ventured further than Englishman William Dampier. Yet while the exploits of Cook, Shackleton, and a host of legendary explorers have been widely chronicled, those of perhaps the greatest are virtually invisible today-an omission that Diana and Michael Preston have redressed in this vivid, compelling biography.As a young man Dampier spent several years in the swashbuckling company of buccaneers in the Caribbean. At a time when surviving one voyage across the Pacific was cause for celebration, Dampier ultimately journeyed three times around the world; his bestselling books about his experiences were a sensation, influencing generations of scientists, explorers, and writers. He was the first to deduce that winds cause currents and the first to produce wind maps across the world, surpassing even the work of Edmund Halley. He introduced the concept of the "sub-species" that Darwin later built into his theory of evolution, and his description of the breadfruit was the impetus for Captain Bligh's voyage on the Bounty. Dampier reached Australia 80 years before Cook, and he later led the first formal expedition of science and discovery there. A Pirate of Exquisite Mind restores William Dampier to his rightful place in history-one of the pioneers on whose insights our understanding of the natural world was built.

About Diana Preston

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Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. She has also been a broadcaster for the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has been featured in various television documentaries. Eight years ago, her decision to write "popular" history led her to The Road to Culloden Moor: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45 Rebellion (Constable UK, 1995). It was followed by A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), The Boxer Rebellion (Walker & Company, 2000), and now, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy (Walker & Company, 2002).  In choosing her topics, Preston looks for stories and events which are both compelling in their own right and also help readers gain a wider understanding of the past. She is fascinated by the human experience-what motivates people to think and act as they doÐand the individual stories that comprise the larger historical picture. Preston spent over two years researching Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. She did a remarkable amount of original research for the book, and is the first author to make full use of the German archives and newly discovered papers that illuminate both the human tragedy and subsequent plots to cover up what really happened. Preston traveled to all the key locations of the tragedy, experiencing firsthand how cold the water off the Irish coast near Cobh would have been in early May when the Lusitania sank, and how eerie it was to stand inside what remains of the U-20 (now at the Strandingsmuseum in West Jutland, Denmark) where the U-boat captain watched the Lusitania through his periscope and gave the order to fire. Of the many artifacts she reviewed, it was her extensive reading of the diaries and memoirs of survivors that had the biggest impact on her. The experience of looking at photographs and touching the scraps of clothing of both survivors and those who died when the Lusitania sank provided her with chilling pictures: The heartbreaking image of a young girl whose sister's hand slipped away from her was one that kept Preston up at night. When not writing, Preston is an avid traveler with her husband, Michael. Together, they have sojourned throughout India, Asia, Africa, and Antarctica, and have climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Mount Roraima in Venezuela. Their adventures have also included gorilla-tracking in Zaire and camping their way across the Namibian desert. Diana and Michael Preston are currently working on a biography of the 17th-century British explorer, naturalist, scientist, pirate and buccaneer William Dampier, which is forthcoming from Walker & Company. They live in London, England.
Published May 26, 2009 by Walker Books. 416 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Travel, Crime, History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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The Guardian

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A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier by Diana Preston and Michael Preston 289pp, Doubleday, £16.99.

Aug 13 2004 | Read Full Review of A Pirate of Exquisite Mind

Entertainment Weekly

Orphaned as a child… Diana Preston Michael Preston Nonfiction Book Review A Pirate Of Exquisite Mind ...

Apr 09 2004 | Read Full Review of A Pirate of Exquisite Mind

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