We mentioned earlier this year the new History Channel documentary on the life of legendary ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, narrated by the almost as legendary Wade Davis (trailer here, or you can order the complete documentary on DVD). For more insights into the life of this fascinating man, check out the Smithsonian which is currently hosting an exhibition of his photography, titled “The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Legendary Botanist Richard Evans Schultes“:
Richard Evans Schultes, an explorer and botanist, spent much of his career penetrating remote reaches of the Amazon, where shamans taught him the healing properties of plants often unknown to science. In his pursuit of natural pharmacopeia, he imbibed strange brews and snorted potent snuff to personally test the effects, often donning traditional costume and participating in tribal ceremonies. By the time he died in 2001 at age 86, Schultes had documented 300 new species and cataloged the uses of 2,000 medicinal plants, from hallucinogenic vines to sources of the muscle relaxant curare.
Schultes was also a popular Harvard professor, known as the father of ethnobotany for his groundbreaking work examining the relationship between cultures and plants. He inspired a generation of Harvard students to become leaders in botany and rain forest preservation—including Mark Plotkin, president of the Amazon Conservation Team and author of the best-selling Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice. “Here was a guy who went off to the unknown and not only lived to tell about it, he came back with all kinds of cool stuff,” Plotkin says. Students remember Schultes’ nonconformity; he was known to demonstrate the use of a blowgun by shooting at a target across the classroom. He was also an avid photographer, who recorded many remarkable images on his expeditions.
The small amount of photographs offered on the website are brilliant – many look as if they were taken just days ago, you have to remind yourself that the people in them have aged 50 years or more since it was taken. If you get the chance, make sure you go take a look at this exhibition (h/t David Pescovitz at Boing Boing).