New Book: “Field Notes on Science and Nature”

This sounds like a great book: Field Notes on Science and Nature

Why are scientists’ field notebooks so valuable? And do notes really matter anymore, with global positioning systems, laptops and digital cameras available to document information traditionally recorded through sketches and barely legible scrawl? In “Field Notes on Science and Nature,” edited by Michael R. Canfield, more than a dozen biologists, anthropologists, geologists and illustrators explore these questions as they open up and dissect their journals, and a few of their forebears’ as well.

Some of the journals are mélanges of art and probing text, including personal revelations (“I never thought I could cry over a goose. But I did”) and copious notes to self. Though written in recent decades, their style would have been familiar to 19th-century readers of travelogues by naturalists like Wallace, Charles Darwin and Henry Walter Bates—books that were often little more than cleaned-up field journals.
Yet a few journals on display in “Field Notes” appear downright clinical, consisting of orderly measurements and lists of species laid out on graph paper. This “just the facts, ma’am” approach is the direction in which field notes have been heading for some time; the newer technologies have only hastened the course. Many of the “Field Notes” authors lament this trend, and not without reason. Journaling—the act of committing information to one’s future self or to unknown others—does more than record facts. It trains the scientific mind.

It sounds like the book includes quite a few reproductions of actual notebook pages, plus essays about scientific journaling. I can’t wait to find a copy to browse through!

Read more at Book Review: Field Notes on Science and Nature – WSJ.com.

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2 Responses to “New Book: “Field Notes on Science and Nature””

  1. That’s a really interesting question that never occured to me before. I would think that keeping a handwritten notebook would connect the scientists more to the environment, and I think their personal notes would have a huge impact on the green movement.

  2. I read here first about that amazing book and bought it at the same moment. It is an uncredible beautiful book with loads of reproductions from the authors’ notebooks. I wrote some little notes about the book (in German) in my blog. Perhaps there will be an English review later this month. I can only recommend the book to anyone who is interested in notebooks and in field research. Also, the good practice tipps and tricks are very useful to develope a habit of keeping notes. Thanks for presenting the book here first!

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