The Fishy Smiths

A Biography of JLB and Margaret Smith

Mike Bruton

The discovery of the living coelacanth - one of the greatest biological finds of the twentieth century - will forever be linked with the name of JLB Smith.
Date Published :
December 2018
Publisher :
Penguin Random House South Africa
Language:
English
Illustration :
Black-and-white images throughout + 16-page color section
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Paperback
ISBN : 9781775846468
Pages : 344
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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+
In stock
$22.00

Overview
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The discovery of the living coelacanth – one of the greatest biological finds of the twentieth century – will forever be linked with the name of JLB Smith.

An intense, irascible, eccentric man, JLB (as he was widely known) and his wife Margaret were remarkable South African scientists whose extraordinary contributions changed the course of the biological sciences. This, the first biography of JLB and Margaret Smith, traces their formative years and serendipitous meeting, leading up to the discovery of the coelacanth, and the tumultuous years that followed.

Illustrated with images of their fascinating lives, as well as a 16-page color section, this lively account is essential reading for anyone interested in the excitement of science and its relevance to our everyday lives.

· Traces their formative years and serendipitous meeting, leading up to the discovery of the coelacanth, and the tumultuous years that followed.
· Details their punitive work ethic, eccentric and rugged lifestyle, and their astonishingly productive lives
· A story awash with adventure, travel, discovery, risk-taking, near-death experiences – and their extraordinary contribution to science.

About The Author
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Mike Bruton knew both JLB and Margaret Smith (and many of the other characters in this story) and succeeded Margaret as Director of then-JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology. He draws on his experience as a scientist and informal science educator to bring to life the story of how the Smiths overcame overwhelming odds, and survived many life-threatening dangers, in order to achieve their ambitious goals. He has recently published his autobiography, When I was a Fish – Tales of an Ichthyologist, as well as two books on the coelacanth: The Annotated Old Fourlegs – The Updated Story of the Coelacanth and, for younger readers, The Amazing Coelacanth. He lives in Cape Town with his wife, Carolynn.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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CONTENTS

Acknowledgements vii
Picture credits ix
Foreword x
Preface xiii
Southern Africa (map) xviii
East coast of Africa (map) xix

1. JLB Smith’s childhood: Karoo to Bishops 1
2. Young whippersnapper: Studies and pranks in Stellenbosch 9
3. Chemistry rules: From student to senior lecturer 15
4. Organic chemistry: Building a career in Grahamstown 21
5. Henriette Pienaar: First marriage, and raising a young family 29
6. Buchu to blacktails: Transition to ichthyology 35
7. Margaret Mary Macdonald: A new lifetime partner 51
8. Agony and ecstasy: Dramatic discovery of the first coelacanth 63
9. Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer: Pioneering museum director 89
10. William Smith: Larger than life 96
11. Room to breathe: The difficult war years, and a new beginning 109
12. Grit and determination: The epic East African expeditions 117
13. Sea and shore dangers: Taking risks 134
14. Bombing and poisoning fishes: Effective but controversial short cuts 142
15. Jubilation: Publication of The Sea Fishes of Southern Africa 153
16. The second coelacanth: ‘It was more than worth … all that long strain’ 167
17. Mending bridges: International collaboration on the coelacanth 191
18. Growth of a legend: Significance of the coelacanth 201
19. After the coelacanth: Consolidation and renewal 207
20. Fishy correspondence – One man’s fish is another man’s poisson 219
21. Old Fourlegs – The best fish book in the world 230
22. Bigger fish to fry: Team building, and the endgame 238
23. Tragedy and recognition: Death of JLB and a flood of accolades 247
24. Lean as biltong: JLB under the microscope 256
25. Margaret’s metamorphosis: Caterpillar to butterfly 271
26. Triumph: Birth of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology 277
27. Gone fishing: Ichthyology thrives in Grahamstown 285
28. Fauna and Flora: Reconnecting in their dotage 298
29. Pride and joy: The Smiths’ amazing legacy 307
Postscript 324

Acronyms 326
References and further reading 327
Index 337

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