This lecture is part of a series of lectures on “Scientific Truths” organised by Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in collaboration with the British Council.
In 1848/49 three young Englishmen - Alfred Wallace, Henry Bates and Richard Spruce - went to the Amazon to study its wildlife and investigate the origin of species. Although all three were of modest origins and almost entirely self-taught, each became the finest British scientist in his field in Amazonia throughout that century. Between them they spent 30 years in the forests and rivers of Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. They had many adventures, loved the country, made major scientific discoveries, explored rivers, collected over ten thousand species new to science, and were the first British to describe the world's largest river, richest ecosystem, greatest rainforest, and some of its indigenous peoples.
Dr John Hemming was Director of the Royal Geographical Society in London for 21 years, and also chairman of a magazine publishing company. He has been on many expeditions in South America, including visits to 45 indigenous peoples in Brazil (4 of them at first contact), and leadership of the 'Maraca Rainforest Project' in Brazil, with 200 scientists and technicians the largest rainforest research project ever organised by Europeans.
His 18 books include The Conquest of the Incas, Monuments of the Incas, The Search for El Dorado, a 3-volume history of Brazilian Indians, Tree of Rivers: the Story of the Amazon and recently Naturalists in Paradise. His awards include: gran oficial 'El Sol del Peru', gran cruz 'Orden al Merito Publico' (Peru), and comendador 'Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul' (Brazil) as well as medals from organisations in the UK, USA, Peru and France.