There are so many fascinating people who have contributed to the study of our world who are no longer remembered on a grand scale. That said, when I "discover" someone it often turns out they appear in almost every book in my library - I have just been skimming over them, going on to something that seemed more interesting or currently vital. They lurk, preparing to amaze me.
I found Gilbert White in John K. King's used and rare book store in downtown Detroit. The Natural History of Selborne - never heard of it - but it looked interesting and it was in my price range. It is a charming, quiet, book of observations of nature written by a clergy man who spent his entire life in the countryside he loved. The book was published by his brother in 1789 and has never been out if print since. If you do a search you will find an incredible number of editions. There are enough to make it perhaps the 4th largest number of books in English.
White, an autodidact, is often compared with Jean-Henri Fabre, the great entomologist born in 19th century France. Fabre came from great poverty, rising above all obstacles to write books on insects which are still read today for the quality of their information and their poetic style. He too devoted his entire life to the study of his native territory.
I have begun a mail art project which I hope will arouse interest in some of the people I have been learning about.
The first mailing was posted to unsuspecting recipients and honored the birthday of Gilbert White on July 18, 1720. There is no death date listed - for me he is still alive. I used a bird to represent him as he is known by many for his work with ornithology.
The second mailing is in small book form which includes a short biography and quotes about insects by Fabre. Many of the people who will receive this book are accustomed to finding a "solstice present" in their mail box. It will be the 16th in a series of 6" square books published annually.
My plan is to do mailings during the next couple of years, honoring the birthdays of naturalists whose work I find compelling or eccentric. Some of my favorites will be missing such as Luca Ghini who is stated as having been born in 1490 but the month and day are unknown.
The actual Mail Art is, of course, limited but can be viewed here in virtual form, now and in the future.