This is a re-post, because this du Chaillu dude is one of my favorite historical figures right now, along with Frenchman Claude Chappe, who developed the world's very first long-distance communications system (which in 1794 allowed Parisians to know the results of a major battle that occurred over 200 miles away, in less than an hour), and S.A. Andrée of Sweden, one of the world's first and greatest balloonist / explorers.
Note: word verification is back on for this site. Sorry about that. But at least the satanic locust-like nigerian-style spammer comments have ceased to infest. Bug spray for all of them I say !
[re-blogged from Sunday 7 April, 2013]
From today Sunday's New York Times Book Review:
We talked about this De Chaillu dude not too long ago, because his role in familiarizing Europeans with the higher primates that whites did not even know existed until the mid-1800s, contributes a lot to understanding the mindset of Euros in the midst of the Darwinian Revolution.
Du Chaillu was a young explorer of part-French extraction, son of a trader, poorly educated but a good marksman, who emerged from Gabon in 1859, after a four-year hunting expedition, with 20 preserved skins of a kind of massive ape, known to the local people as njena. The animal soon took its familiar name, gorilla, by loose borrowing from the ancient Greek account of a voyage by Hanno the Navigator, who claimed to have seen some big and hairy people along the African coast and called them Gorillae, though almost certainly they weren’t actual gorillas. Science now recognizes two species, the eastern gorilla (of which the famously endangered mountain gorillas are a subspecies) and the western, which includes those individuals that fell to Du Chaillu’s gun. But such modern taxonomic dicing is far removed, in time and spirit, from the tale of scientific buccaneering and creationist discomfiture that Reel, a former correspondent for The Washington Post, tells in this intriguing book.
|Du Chaillu explaining African primates to a bewildered London audience at the London Anthropological Society, circa 1870|