Professor Richard Olmstead

(SINGLE AUDIO CD) Lewis and Clark and the Natural History of the Pacific Northwest: 200 Years and Counting


University of Washington History Series

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Richard Olmstead reminds us that Lewis and Clark were not only charged with finding an overland route to the Pacific, Meriwether Lewis had been assigned the task of documenting the novel flora and fauna encountered en route. While earlier naturalists had explored the eastern fringes of the Great Plains and investigated sites along the west coast, the Lewis collections and descriptions of the vast interior of western North America were the first made by anyone of European descent. His records are the first systematic effort to document the natural history of the Pacific Northwest, and many of our most common and recognizable plants and animals are among those he first collected and described in his journals. Though most animal specimens have not survived, over 200 of his original plant samples endure and form one of the most important early collections of plants in western North America.