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This title in other editions

The Sounding of the Whale: Science & Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century


The Sounding of the Whale: Science & Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the Bibleand#8217;s and#8220;Canst thou raise leviathan with a hook?and#8221; to Captain Ahaband#8217;s and#8220;From Helland#8217;s heart I stab at thee!,and#8221; from the trials of Job to the legends of Sinbad, whales have breached in the human imagination as looming figures of terror, power, confusion, and mystery.

In the twentieth century, however, our understanding of and relationship to these superlatives of creation underwent some astonishing changes, and with The Sounding of the Whale, D. Graham Burnett tells the fascinating story of the transformation of cetaceans from grotesque monsters, useful only as wallowing kegs of fat and fertilizer, to playful friends of humanity, bellwethers of environmental devastation, and, finally, totems of the counterculture in the Age of Aquarius. When Burnett opens his story, ignorance reigns: even Nature was misclassifying whales at the turn of the century, and the only biological study of the species was happening in gruesome Arctic slaughterhouses. But in the aftermath of World War I, an international effort to bring rational regulations to the whaling industry led to an explosion of global researchand#8212;and regulations that, while well-meaning, were quashed, or widely flouted, by whaling nations, the first shot in a battle that continues to this day. The book closes with a look at the remarkable shift in public attitudes toward whales that began in the 1960s, as environmental concerns and new discoveries about whale behavior combined to make whales an object of sentimental concern and public adulation.

A sweeping history, grounded in nearly a decade of research, The Sounding of the Whale tells a remarkable story of how science, politics, and simple human wonder intertwined to transform the way we see these behemoths from below.

About the Author

D. Graham Burnett is professor of history and history of science at Princeton University. He is an editor at Cabinet magazine, as well as the author of four books, including A Trial by Jury, Trying Leviathan, and Masters of All They Surveyed, the last published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



ONE   Introduction

TWO   Into the Belly of the Beast

THREE   The Prince of Whales

FOUR   A Cetaceous Parliament

FIVE   Trials of Force

SIX   Shots across the Bow

SEVEN   Conclusion



Product Details

Burnett, D. Graham
University of Chicago Press
Modern - 20th Century
Nature Studies-Ocean and Marine Biology
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
16 color plates, 86 halftones, 18 line d
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Biology » Zoology » Mammals
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Mammals » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Ocean and Marine Biology
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » Marine Mammals

The Sounding of the Whale: Science & Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century New Hardcover
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Product details 824 pages University of Chicago Press - English 9780226081304 Reviews:
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