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American TropicsThe Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science$
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Megan Raby

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469635606

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469635606.001.0001

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Making Biology Tropical

Making Biology Tropical

(p.58) Chapter Two Making Biology Tropical
American Tropics

Megan Raby

University of North Carolina Press

Early efforts to create institutions for ecological research in the tropics were far more difficult to sustain financially than stations with agricultural goals. In the 1910s and 1920s, rival zoologists Thomas Barbour and William Beebe each drew on their wealth, corporate and political connections, and larger­than­life personalities to transform the landscape of basic tropical research. While differing in their spatial practices and relative emphases on taxonomy or ecology, both men argued that the study of life in the tropics was fundamental to a broad understanding of biology. Barbour argued that “tropical biology” was essential to solving the United States’ growing practical problems in tropical agriculture and medicine. Chapter 2 examines the stations they developed—Beebe in British Guiana, Barbour at Soledad, Cuba, and Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in the Panama Canal Zone—and how they leveraged U.S. economic interests in the tropics to further basic science.

Keywords:   basic science, biogeography, Cuba, ecology, Guyana, natural history, taxonomy, Thomas Barbour, tropical agriculture, William Beebe

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