From Classical times to the 19th century, the great quest to discover and define the intoxicating diversity of the natural world attracted a host of intrepid thinkers and explorers. Aristotle and Linnaeus set out to classify nature; Joseph Banks and von Humboldt made perilous journeys to collect and record it. Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria with a homemade microscope and James Hutton revealed the immense age of the Earth. Mary Anning hunted fossils; others insects, birds and plants. Georges Cuvier pondered extinction, and Charles Darwin proclaimed the origin of species.
With their radical thinking and commitment to close observation, these pioneers laid foundations for the specialist scientists of today. Here thirty-nine of them are brought vividly to life by an array of experts, with illustrations from the unmatched archive of the Natural History Museum, London.