-- J. Henri Fabre
Every student of science should be introduced at some point to the work, to the writing, to the spirit of J. Henri Fabre. The pre-eminent 19th-century entomologist (a studier of bugs), Fabre was passionate about sharing his enthusiasm for observation and experimentation with all, especially the young. He presents his findings in fascinating stories, first giving detailed descriptions of some amazing activity of a wasp or a beetle, then raising questions about how and why, and finally proposing and performing experiments to try to answer his questions.
The most careful and detailed of scientific observers, Fabre’s experience with insects drove him to the “great question of instinct”: how could these animals behave in such amazingly intelligent ways? Are they intelligent themselves? Could they have developed their incredibly sophisticated and precise techniques gradually over generations? By raising these questions and offering experimental answers, Fabre models what nearly all the great scientists in history considered themselves to be – the true philosophers.
Fabre wrote many, many volumes, some of which are still in print and even available on the internet. I recommend two books that are still in print. The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre contains Fabre’s “greatest hits.” Chapters such as “The Wisdom of Instinct” and “The Ignorance of Instinct” are classics that high school and even college students will never forget. For younger students, The Story Book of Science contains much fascinating information and reflection on plants, animals and other natural phenomena told as a conversation between several children and their uncle. Each book will help develop the natural fascination for the natural world and admiration for the God who made it.