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Journey to the Top of the World
On a morning in May 1804, there arrived at the White House by Baltimore coach, and in the company of the painter Charles Willson Peale, a visitor from abroad: an aristocratic young German, age thirty-four, a bachelor, occupation scientist and explorer. And like Halley's comet or the white whale or other such natural phenomena dear to the nineteenth century, he would be remembered by all who saw him for the rest of their days.
He had come to pay his respects to the president of the new republic, Thomas Jefferson, a fellow "friend of science," and to tell...
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- Book Cover Image (jpg): Brave Companions
eBook 9781416561231(3.8 MB)
- Author Photo (jpg): David McCullough
Photograph by William B. McCullough(3.4 MB)
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Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics for Discussion
- Aime Bonpland Humbolt, naturalist, geographer, geologist, botanist, linguist, and artist believed in a harmony of nature that included man. Humbolt lived until ninety and saw most of his work become "old hat." What do you think was Humbolt's largest contribution to science? Why did McCullough include him in this collection?
- With little first-hand knowledge and exposure to the institution of slavery, Harriet Beecher Stowe was able to write Uncle Tom's Cabin, a kind of fictional muckracking that inarguably shed more light on the ills of slavery than any widely read publication or discourse of the time. Stowe writes, "The power of fictitious writing, for good and evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be reflected on. No one can fail to see that in our day it is becoming a very great agency." What agency is Stowe speaking of? Do you agree with this statement? Can you recall a contemporary novel or publication that created a stir to ultimately impact social or political change?
- According to McCullough, Frederick Remington's successful career seems to have happened by chance and good fate. In this vignette, you never truly get a sense of how he was discovered, but it is clear that Remington's honesty and personal and artistic integrity took a back seat to the advancement of his career. Discuss the instances where Re