Jack Nisbet

After Lewis and Clark, but before the British were driven north of the 49th Parallel, Scottish naturalist David Douglas (1799-1834) made three expeditions to North America for the Hudson’s Bay Company. It was during his second trip, after landing at the mouth of the Columbia River, that he made the discovery that today bears his name—the mighty Douglas Fir. Roaming the Northwest for three years after reaching Fort Vancouver in 1825, he kept copious journals, which provide the framework for local writer Jack Nisbet to follow in The Collector (Sasquatch, $23.95). Naturalism was a hot field in the early 19th century, and “botanizing” was a dashing pursuit for a nearsighted young man from a humble middle-class family, a chance to see the world (including the Galápagos Islands, before Darwin got there). Douglas was charged with observing and gathering everything he could—seeds, plants, animals he shot and skinned, anything that might have commercial or scientific value. But today he’s a forgotten historical footnote whose journals went unpublished, who died young, under somewhat murky circumstances, in Hawaii. And yet by foot, horseback, and canoe, Douglas saw more of our state than most residents today experience in a lifetime. BRIAN MILLER

Sun., Nov. 8, 2 p.m., 2009

 
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