Nabokov's Blues by Kurt Johnson
The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius

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Synopsis

Vladimir Nabokov had no formal training in biology, but during the 1940s he was an acknowledged expert on "Blues," a family of butterflies that inhabit some of the remotest parts of Latin and South America. In 1945 he published a radical new classification of Blues, a paper that initially caused a stir in the rarified field of lepidoptery. However, it was fifty years before scientists followed up on his pioneering work. Part biography and part detective story, Nabokov's Blues explores the rich and varied place butterflies hold in Nabokov's fiction, as well as far-reaching questions of biogeography and evolution, and the worldwide crisis of ecology and biodiversity.

"A view of Nabokov's science and art that is both eerily evocative and stunningly new, that makes delectable reading without patronizing the reader."-Dmitri Nabokov

"Vivid and varied, surprising and thoughtful, wry and poignant, Nabokov's Blues will appeal to anyone with a taste for adventure and contrast."-Brian Boyd

Chapter: The Most Famous Lepidopterist in the World

"Frankly, I never thought of letters as a career. Writing has always been for me a blend of dejection and high spirits, a torture and a pastime-but I never expected it to be a source of income. On the other hand, I have often dreamt of a long and exciting career as an obscure curator of lepidoptera in a great museum..."-Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions

Lepidoptery, the branch of science dedicated to the study of butterflies and moths, has its own legendary figures, and its history is both long and glorious. But for lepidopterists, as in fact for most entomologists, the light of celebrity seldom shines outside a narrow but passionate circle of scientists and collectors.

During the Age of Exploration, when the influx of exotic new plants and animals from the four corners of a seemingly boundless globe astounded Europe, the study of biology, often a preserve of the well-born, offered a path to wealth and fame. Sir Joseph Banks, the 18th century English biologist who accompanied Captain James Cook on his three-year circumnavigation aboard the British ship Endeavor, was a friend of King George III and one of the most fam
 

About Kurt Johnson

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Johnson is a widely published lepidopterist and a foremost expert on Vladimir Nabokov's lepidoptery. Coates is an editor at The New York Times.
 
Published October 1, 2000 by Zoland Books. 368 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction