gilbert white

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The Accidental Economist

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) at age 7
Charles Darwin at age 7; Artist: Ellen Sharples

Gilbert White was an 18th century parson-naturalist who devoted his time studying the interactions within the natural environment of his local parish, Selborne. In retrospect, he can be regarded as today’s amateur ecologist. Notable for his eccentricities (White is rumoured to have played the trumpet to his pet tortoise Timothy), he is also famous for his epistolary, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. One of his entries marvels at how cattle retire to water during the hot weather, leaving behind dung that then attracts insects to feed the fish – “Thus Nature, who is a great economist, converts the recreation of one animal to the support of another!”

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