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\(..1-.1IN rights, not just rainfall, and the way Americans’ cultural and legal beliefs about water determined patterns of growth. He fleshed out his sense of the growing field of environmental history in both Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas and The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination. Not until the publication of A River Running West, however, has Worster tried his hand at biography. Speaking last spring in Los Angeles as a panelist during a session on biography at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, Worster confessed that he had only recently come to think of biography as “real” history. In the past he never read biography, never taught biography, and certainly never thought of writing biography. Like many historians of his generation, Worster said, he looked down on biography, a genre that seemed to him a poor substitute for the kind of meaty analysis and probing inquiry that he associated with worthy projects. His abiding interest in conservation, water, and American social and cultural history led him to think more seriously about Powell, a figure who haunts any discussion of the roots of American environmentalism. By choosing to revisit Powell and his work by way of biography, Worster is able to use individual characters to discuss and analyze broad trends in nineteenth-century experience. For instance, Worster’s parents, born in Britain, serve as vehicles to examine immigration, the Second Great Awakening, and Westward movement. In describing Powell’s youth and young adulthood, Worster is able to write about education and, more specifically, about nineteenth-century science. Because Powell was a veteran,’W gets to discuss experiences of War and Lincoln’s assassinado, he shows Powell casting about for employment and purpose after the war, Worster gives a sense of the nation in the throes of post-war expaoion and exploration. Once he’s launched Powell’ on his trips down the Colorado, Worster offers readers detailed descriptions of Western landscape, geography, and the formation of the United States Geological Survey. Beyond simply communicating the thrill of Powell’s journeys,Worster, in one of my favorite chapters, “The Sublimest Thing on Earth,” explains the ways art and science intersected in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. He touches on landscape painting, aesthetics, photography, topological surveys, cartography, and publication. The biography highlights the particular, as well as the general, so that Worster’s quixotic Powell spends much of the last years of his life tilting at , Washington’s windmills, arguing with small-minded bureaucrats and legislators who refused to listen to hard news that bore great implications for the public good. Like Stegner, Worster crafts his final section around Powell’s time in Washington, where Powell headed the original Bureau of American Ethnology and crusaded for public funding of Western surveys intended to support viable Western expansion. Politicians and legislators loath to spend money in times of economic retraction were adamantly opposed to Powell’s suggestions. Rather than teaching readers about broad trends in American history, in this last ‘section of A River Running West, Worster emphasizes Powell’s outspokenness, his willingness to risk his own reputation to shape government policy that might take into account the needs of common people across the land. In many ways, the publication of Worster’s book could not come at a better time. His biography of Powell serves as a deep meditation on patriotism at a time when, yet again, our leaders shoehorn us into narrowly defined ways of thinking. Concerned about the lot of Everyman, Powell argued valiantly for a system of land and water allocation that was fairnot continued on page 36 11