Nicholls, Henry 1973-

views updated

Nicholls, Henry 1973-


Born 1973; married; children: two sons. Education: Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, B.A., 1995, M.A., 1999; University of Sheffield, Ph.D., 2000.


Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Freelance science journalist. Endeavor (history of science magazine), editor, 2002—.


Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon, Macmillan (London, England), 2006.


Henry Nicholls is a freelance science journalist whose first book, Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon, is a biography of the sole remaining giant Galapagos tortoise from the island of Pinta in 1971. The reptile, whose species was thought to have been extinct since 1906, is somewhere between sixty and 200 years old and has been the poster animal for conservation efforts since his discovery in 1971. He has lived at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island for many years, where he entertains a growing contingent of eco-tourists.

Lonesome George acquired his name from his solitary existence and because of his indifference to females and mating. Concerted efforts by biologists to interest him in females of compatible species or to obtain a specimen suitable for in vitro fertilization have met with disaster. At one point a woman was hired to stimulate him manually, but George's underutilized organs failed to respond properly. Nicholls's book covers not only this aspect of George's story, but also the history of wildlife exploration on the islands from Charles Darwin's time up to the present. Nicholls notes that Darwin and his crew often dined on the giant tortoises that roamed the islands and that sailors found them to be the perfect provision for long voyages; they required little food or water and as long as they were placed on their backs, they remained immobilized in the ship's hold.

Critics enjoyed Nicholls's account of George's travails. The book is a "marvelous look at the conservation of nature, as embodied in one enormous reptile," according to Nancy Bent in a review for Booklist. Deborah Emerson, writing in Library Journal, compared Nicholls's writing to that of "an adventure novel," and Natalie Hoare of Geographical called it a "detailed and often amusing account … [full of] fascinating general information" regarding the Galapagos islands as a whole—a sentiment echoed by Michael Shermer in the Skeptic, who called Nicholls "a brilliant storyteller and narrative stylist" and declared the book "an emotional but fact-filled call for action."



Booklist, April 1, 2006, Nancy Bent, review of Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon, p. 10.

E, September-October, 2006, Jim Motavalli, review of Lonesome George, p. 61.

Geographical, July, 2006, Natalie Hoare, review of Lonesome George, p. 80.

Guardian, May 13, 2006, P.D. Smith, review of Lonesome George.

Library Journal, May 1, 2006, Deborah Emerson, review of Lonesome George, p. 116.

Nature, May 18, 2006, Rick Shine, review of Lonesome George, p. 286.

New Scientist, April 15, 2006, Lonesome George, p. 54.

Science Books & Films, July-August, 2006, William H. Adams, review of Lonesome George, p. 155.

Skeptic, winter, 2006, Michael Shermer, Lonesome George, p. 67.

Times Literary Supplement, July 7, 2006, Lonesome George, p. 24.

Times Higher Education Supplement, May 26, 2006, Lonesome George, p. 25.

About this article

Nicholls, Henry 1973-

Updated About content Print Article