Critics Reviews of Useful Plants of Guam

Critics Reviews of Useful Plants of Guam

Oliver Sacks, Author of the Island of the Color-blind:

“I had thought, from the title, that it was going to be a narrow, rather technical book on rice and yams, though I hoped it would have some interesting drawings of cycads as well. But its title was deceptively modest, for it seemed to contain, in its four hundred densely packed pages, a detailed account not only of the plants, the animals, the geology of Guam, but a deeply sympathetic account of Chamorro life and culture, from their foods, their crafts, their boats, their houses, to their language, their myths and rituals, their philosophical and religious belief.”


Joe Quinata, Guam Preservation Trust

“William Edwin Safford provides preservationists a portal to Guam’s history from a technical perspective that integrates conservation and preservation.”


Chris Kearin, Dreamers

“Its value to botanists would have been — and perhaps still is — immense. But the human qualities that come through in its pages, the curiosity, the lack of prejudice, the touches of humor; all of that is Safford’s unique contribution. An historian in some distant future, having no knowledge of our civilization other than a copy of Safford, would have a great deal indeed: an encapsulation of everything one talented observer could relate about one obscure but not unconnected part of the earth and how human beings lived in it.”


Edgar Anderson, Botanist

“Under this modest title is hidden one of the world’s most fascinating volumes. The author, who apparently came as close to knowing everything about everything as is possible in modern times, was professionally both a botanist in the United States Department of Agriculture and a lieutenant in the United States Navy. In this latter capacity he served for a year as assistant governor of Guam. In somewhat over four hundred pages he not only takes up all the native and crop plants of any importance, but also touches on such subjects as the history of pirates in the Pacific, how floating seeds led to the discovery of ocean currents, the grammar of the native language, the actual anatomical means by which stinging plants attain their devilish ends, and the aspect of the various kinds of tropical vegetation on the island, each of these digressions being developed with finicky regard for accuracy and appropriately embellished with authoritative footnotes.”


Robert Underwood, President, University of Guam

“As a university student four decades ago, I tried to learn as much about the Chamorro language, the culture of my people and scientific information about Guam that may have existed at the time. Nearly all of those lines of inquiry led to William Safford in one way or another. The sheer magnitude of information collected by Lt. Safford during his short time on the island and while essentially running the Naval Government of Guam is impressive.

His most useful work has been the present volume on the plants of Guam. For Chamorro scholars, he has given us insights into how the people of Guam saw and used their plants at the turn of the 20th century. For botanists, all research begins with Safford. For anyone who lives in Guam, to not know Safford or his works is tantamount to admitting that you know very little about the island. Read it and let it spark your imagination. while you learn a great deal about your immediate surroundings.”

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