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Until the nineteenth century, the investigation of natural phenomena, plants and animals was considered either the preserve of elite scholars or a pastime for the leisured upper classes. As increasing academic rigour and systematisation was brought to the study of 'natural history', its subdisciplines were adopted into university curricula, and learned societies (such as the London Zoological Society, founded in 1826) were established to support research in these areas. These developments are reflected in the books reissued in this series, which describe the anatomy and characteristics of animals ranging from invertebrates to polar bears, fish to birds, in habitats from Arctic North America to the tropical forests of Malaysia. By the middle of the nineteenth century, this work and developments in research on fossils had resulted in the formulation of the theory of evolution.

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