Synopses & Reviews
For more than one hundred years, the National Geographic Society has brought "the world and all that is in it" to millions worldwide. Through its unparallel led research, exploration, publications, and photography, the organization and its magazine have, in many ways, defined how we see the world. Now Robert Poole's Explorers House
gives a vibrant, behind-the-scenes look at National Geographic, from its start in 1888 to its evolution into one of the most esteemed and iconic American institutions.
The story of the National Geographic is a family story of a media dynasty to rival the Sulzbergers of Luces. The Grosvenors, along with Alexander Graham Bell, who was linked to the family by marriage, created the institution's photography-based monthly, and the family has been on the masthead since the McKinley administration. Content to stay in the shadows, however, they have remained modestly obscured from public view while their media empire has grown to reach some forty million readers and viewers each month.
The Grosvenor and Bell family history is not merely the story of the National Geographic; it is a captivating view of the sweep of American scientific, geographic, and political history since the late nineteenth century, rendered in fascinating human terms by Poole. Moreover, Explorers House shows the inside workings of the magazine's editorial process, providing an unprecedented look behind some of National Geographic's ground-breaking articles and explorations from Cousteau's famous Calypso voyages to the origins of Jane Goodall's research on chimpanzees to the institution's 1963 Mt. Everest expedition, the first to place an American on the summit.
We also hear of the writers and photographers who are larger than life figures themselves, such as Luis Marden, the writer-photographer who unearthed the remains of the H.M.S. Bounty off Pitcairn Island, among many other feats. Explorers House presents the National Geographic from the inside out from its remarkable founding family to the very ends of the earth it investigates.
"Alexander Graham Bell didn't just invent the phone: he cofounded one of the world's great magazines. Bell and Gardiner Hubbard, a blue-blood Bostonian, launched the National Geographic Society in 1888. That fall, its journal first appeared, shedding light on subjects like volcanism and botany and establishing itself as an authority in scientific and technical arcana. The organization grew, but the magazine stalled until Gilbert H. Grosvenor, a young schoolteacher, signed on as editor, and the stories of the Grosvenor family and the magazine have been linked ever since. The organization and magazine grew steadily over the years, with more people, places and things for its members to discover. However, the magazine's growth often overshadowed subagendas of racism, sexism and conservatism within its offices, according to Poole. The 1950s and '60s brought rapid changes, as previously glossed-over subjects domestic poverty, life under communism, apartheid finally appeared in full color. Poole, recently retired as National Geographic's executive editor, maintains objectivity without sacrificing scope and detail; the book has been built with all the painstaking care you'd expect from a National Geographic article (and thus, it's also a bit abstruse). Recent magazine troubles, chronicled in the last chapter, may not interest everyone, but then, back in 1888, who besides Alexander Graham Bell knew a beetle's wing structure would be so fascinating? Photos. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (On sale Oct. 25)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Fascinating from beginning to end. It would be hard to imagine a more thorough and absorbing history of a great institution." Bill Bryson
"This book delighted me. It is much more than the story of a magazine. It is a wonderfully subtle and exhaustive-and even shocking-portrait of an age and of an institution that is at times more Byzantine than American. It is also the history of a very big and very bossy family." Paul Theroux
"[A]lthough he writes with sureness of the organization's past, it is in covering the past 20 years, with all the clashing of wills, that Poole guides readers with special acumen through the mazelike backroom politics. A natty tour of the society's house: closets, skeletons, and all." Kirkus Reviews
"Fans of the magazine will appreciate Poole's revealing examination of its evolution." Booklist
"At last, someone has ripped away the veneer of spun sugar and told the truth about the National Geographic Society. And who better for the job than Bob Poole twenty-year veteran insider, superb writer and diligent researcher? Explorers House is fascinating and important, an honest account of the rise and fall of an American icon." Peter Benchley
About the Author
Robert M. Poole retired as Executive Editor of National Geographic in 2001 after a twenty-one-year career as a writer and editor there. In addition to his work for National Geographic, Poole has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, Preservation, and Fly Fisherman. Before joining the National Geographic staff in 1980, he was a newspaper correspondent specializing in national politics and the environment. He is a former fellow at the Washington Journalism Center.