October 1, 1989
Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Pacific Visions: California Scientists and the Environment, 1850-1915.
By Michael L. Smith. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. Maps. Illustrations. Notes. Index. 243 Pages $26.50.
Although there is little direct mention of San Diego in this book, Pacific Visions is still highly recommended for those who want to understand the broader contexts in which San Diego and California history have developed. The book is about scientists-usually geologies, botanists, naturalists, and surveyors-who studied the California natural environment from the Gold Rush to the first world war. It is the author’s assertion (which he supports well) that these scientists developed an identity which was separate from their counterparts in the East. One of the major differneces was that the Californias did not become essentially isolated acadmics, as did the scientists in the East. Instead, the Californians remained more involved in the life of the region, including a much stronger advocacy role. Smith has written an excellent study which makes some very important points which help one to understand California’s approach to its environment, both historically and for the present.