Book ID: CBB742474671

The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History (2017)


Pimentel, Juan (Author)
Mason, Peter (Translator)

Mason, Peter
Harvard University Press

Publication Date: 2017
Physical Details: 368 pages
Language: English

One animal left India in 1515, caged in the hold of a Portuguese ship, and sailed around Africa to Lisbon―the first of its species to see Europe for more than a thousand years. The other crossed the Atlantic from South America to Madrid in 1789, its huge fossilized bones packed in crates, its species unknown. How did Europeans three centuries apart respond to these two mysterious beasts―a rhinoceros, known only from ancient texts, and a nameless monster? As Juan Pimentel explains, the reactions reflect deep intellectual changes but also the enduring power of image and imagination to shape our understanding of the natural world.We know the rhinoceros today as “Dürer’s Rhinoceros,” after the German artist’s iconic woodcut. His portrait was inaccurate―Dürer never saw the beast and relied on conjecture, aided by a sketch from Lisbon. But the influence of his extraordinary work reflected a steady move away from ancient authority to the dissemination in print of new ideas and images. By the time the megatherium arrived in Spain, that movement had transformed science. When published drawings found their way to Paris, the great zoologist Georges Cuvier correctly deduced that the massive bones must have belonged to an extinct giant sloth. It was a pivotal moment in the discovery of the prehistoric world.The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium offers a penetrating account of two remarkable episodes in the cultural history of science and is itself a vivid example of the scientific imagination at work.

Reviewed By

Review Brian Fagan (2017) Review of "The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History". Journal of Interdisciplinary History (pp. 241-242). unapi

Review Paige Madison (2017) Review of "The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History". Journal of the History of Biology (pp. 677-679). unapi

Review Dániel Margócsy (2018) Review of "The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 184-185). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Rich, Thomas H. V.
Sliggers, Bert
Mayor, Adrienne
Biagioli, Mario
Ritvo, Harriet
Beckert, Sven
Journal of Literature and Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Environmental History
Indiana University Press
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
University of California Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Uitgeverij Thoth
Natural history
Earth sciences
Darwin, Charles Robert
Brown, Barnum
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Linnaeus, Carolus
Anning, Mary
Ussher, James
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
21st century
20th century, early
17th century
United States
Great Britain
Mediterranean region
University of Wyoming
Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin

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