Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New books

Your guide to new books this month

The Art of Science

John Kean, Museum Victoria, $50.00

Among Museum Victoria’s collection are extraordinary works of art from what were called “paper museums” depicting Australian animals and plants in an era when photography was not an option. The best of these have been collected in The Art of Science, including works by giants such as Audubon and Gould.

Black Swan Lake: Life of a Wetland

Rod Giblett, Footprint, $68.00

A/Prof Rod Giblett of Edith Cowan University moved to Forrestdale Lake in south-western Australia in 1986. He kept a nature journal tracing the birth and death of plants and animals in the local wetlands, along with a calendar charting the seasonal water levels. Black Swan Lake uses these recordings, but also seeks to learn from the six seasons described by the local indigenous peoples.

The Exotic Booze Club

Brian Armstrong, Pier 9, $27.99

Brian Armstrong dreamed of becoming a photographer from the age of seven, and grew up to make documentaries in some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world. He has plenty of stories of his own, from lakes of acid to a helicopter crash, but against his employer’s policy he established “The Exotic Booze Club”, where filmmakers and explorers could share tales of how they obtained the footage from which so much of the population learns its science.

The World’s Rarest Birds

Erik Hirshfeld, Andy Swash and Robert Still, Princeton University Press, US$45.00

The rare birds photographed in this book come from all across the world, but Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are particularly heavily represented. New Zealand in particular was a bird paradise until the arrival of humans brought other mammals. While many have died out entirely, some hang on. Not merely an attempt to document these species before they are gone, The World’s Rarest Birds celebrates avian diversity and raises awareness of what we are in danger of losing.

The often astonishing photographs used in the book were sourced from an international photo competition. In some cases the images included in the book are the only known photograph of a species on the border of extinction.

The Ambitions of Jane Franklin

In an era when exploration was considered a male-only activity, Lady Jane Franklin stood out. Tasmanian historian Alison Alexander says Franklin was probably the most well-travelled woman of her day, as well as establishing a scientific society in Tasmania and even trying to rid the island of snakes while her husband was Governor.

After Sir John Franklin died while seeking the north-west passage, she campaigned to clear his reputation, making the failure of his expedition a byword for heroism. Nor did his death deter her: she went on travelling to then-remote places into her 70s.