I wrote a paper my junior year of high school entitled "The American Frontier: Its Allure and Effect on the American People." That's a pretty ambitious essay topic for a high school junior. I went back and read that essay: I looked at three of Willa Cather's novels in the context of Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis. My analysis, looking back, is highly oversimplifying, but I was also felt kind of proud, looking back at my sixteen year-old self, for choosing a topic that still interests me today.
I probably would never have gone back and read my junior essay if I hadn't been reading two books about frontiers, both scientific and physical. Helen M. Rozwadowski, in Fathoming the Ocean: The Discovery and Exploration of the Deep Sea, discusses the origins of oceanography and marine biology in the nineteenth century. (Rozwadowski also sailed with SEA Semester in college, the same program I sailed with in fall 2010!) Robert E. Kohler, Rozwadowski's Ph.D. advisor, wrote a book in a similar vein entitled All Creatures: Naturalists, Collectors, and Biodiversity, 1850-1950. In this work, Kohler explores the period of natural history survey, a distinct moment in the history of biology and taxonomy.