Richard Evans Schultes – ethnobotanist, taxonomist, író és fotográfus – őt tekintik az egyik legfontosabb növényi felfedezőnek a 20. században. 1941 decemberében lépett arra az útra, hogy az esőerdőket tanulmányozza. Miként használják az őslakosok a növényeket gyógyászati, rituális és gyakorlati szempontból. Schultes összesen több mint 24.000 növényfaj köztük 300 új fajt a gyűjtött össze a tudomány számára.
Richard Evans Schultes – ethnobotanist, taxonomist, writer and photographer – is regarded as one of the most important plant explorers of the 20th century. In December 1941, Schultes entered the Amazon rainforest on a mission to study how indigenous peoples used plants for medicinal, ritual and practical purposes. He would follow in the tradition of great Victorian era explorers, spending over a decade immersed in near-continuous fieldwork. In total, Schultes would collect more than 24,000 species of plants including some 300 species new to science.
Schultes’ area of focus was the northwest Amazon, an area that had remained largely unknown to the outside world, isolated by the Andes to the west and dense jungles and impassable rapids on all other sides. Schultes lived amongst little studied tribes, mapped uncharted rivers, and was the first scientist to explore some areas that have not been researched since. His notes and photographs are some of the only existing documentation of indigenous cultures in a region of the Amazon on the cusp of change.
Throughout his travels, Schultes’ love of plants and respect for indigenous knowledge of the forest helped him earn the trust of the native communities he encountered. He found that the shamans he met were often willing, if not eager, to discuss their plants and their practices with outsiders who had a common appreciation for plants.
Schultes was not only an accomplished scientist: his teachings at Harvard University had a profound impact on countless students. His vivid descriptions of Amazonian tribes and creative classroom demonstrations, such as the use of a blowgun, inspired hundreds of students into careers in biology, anthropology, medicine and conservation.
One of those students was Amazon Conservation Team President and co-founder Dr. Mark Plotkin, who—in large part inspired by Dr. Schultes—created a conservation organization focused on protecting the Amazon rainforest in partnership with indigenous communities. This inspiration lives on as ACT’s Colombia program has the great privilege to partner with many of the same indigenous tribes that Schultes met 75 years ago.
The special significance of Schultes’ research derives in part from ideal timing: he arrived in the Amazon at an inflection point for the peoples he encountered and ultimately for the great forest as a whole. In our map journal, we retrace Schultes’ journeys, exemplify his vast botanical collection—a great legacy to science—and explore the natural and cultural context of the environments he traversed, then and now, impressing upon us the immense importance of their conservation.