In 1941 Richard Evans Schultes took leave of Harvard University and disappeared into the Amazon rain forest of Colombia. Twelve years later, he resurfaced having gone places no outsider had ever been. He mapped uncharted rivers and lived among two dozen Indian tribes while collecting some thirty thousand botanical specimens, including the sacred hallucinogenic mushroom known to the Aztecs as the “Flesh of the Gods” and ayahuasca (or yagé), known to indigenous cultures as the “Vine of the Soul.” Schultes is widely regarded as the greatest botanical explorer of the twentieth century. As gifted a photographer as he was a scientist, Schultes’s exquisite images capture the lush landscapes, beautiful plants, and native people he encountered on his journey. The Lost Amazon is an extraordinary chronicle of the life’s work of the world authority on medicinal, toxic, and hallucinogenic plants. Schultes’s connection with the places and people he encountered is evident both within these pages and in the way his legacy has been honored throughout South America. Recipient of the Cross of Boyacá, Colombia’s most prestigious honor, as well as the Linnean Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded to a botanist, Schultes published more than four hundred scientific papers and numerous books, including Plants of the Gods, The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens, and The Healing Forest. Schultes passed away in 2001 at the age of eighty-six. In South America, a mountain bears his name, as does a national preserve. Including a biographical essay from his former student, best-selling author Wade Davis, The Lost Amazon is a tribute to the brilliance of Schultes’s vision and an unrivaled anthropological record of a way of life that can never be recaptured.
Wade Davis studied for several years with Richard Evans Schultes while getting his PhD in ethnobotany and is a critically acclaimed, internationally best-selling author and anthropologist. His many books include The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence, winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize, the top award for literary nonfiction in the English language. Between 1999 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic and is currently Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia.