January 19, 2006 New Book About Scientist-Explorer Clarence King to Be Discussed on Feb. 8

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

Robert Wilson will discuss his new biography, “The Explorer King: Adventure, Science, and the Great Diamond Hoax—Clarence King in the Old West,” at the Library of Congress at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 8, in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

A book signing will follow the presentation, which is part of the Books & Beyond author program sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The Geography and Map Division is co-sponsoring the event. The program is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required.

“The Explorer King” (Scribner, 2006) examines the life of Yale-educated Clarence King, who helped create the new American West of the 19th century. King went west in 1863 at age 21 as a geologist-explorer. During the next decade, he scaled the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada; published a popular book, “Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada,” now considered a classic of adventure literature; and initiated a major land survey of the American West.

In 1872 King uncovered one of the greatest financial frauds of the century: The Great Diamond Hoax, in which claims of a diamond field in Wyoming turned out to be bogus. The fraud involved private investors, government officials and others. King became an international celebrity and eventually came to symbolize how science, politics and business began to intersect and influence one another during this era.

Writer Edward Hoagland called “The Explorer King” a “bracing and detailed narrative of the heydays of a flamboyant, emblematic, though equivocal figure from our explorative age.” Historian Garry Wills observed: “It often has been wondered how men as remarkable as historian

Henry Adams and Secretary of State John Hay could think the most remarkable man in their circle was the geologist Clarence King. Robert Wilson solves this intriguing puzzle intriguingly.”

Wilson, who has been an award-winning editor at Preservation magazine and at Civilization: The Magazine of the Library of Congress, now edits The American Scholar. He writes often for magazines and newspapers, and was on the staff at USA Today and The Washington Post.

Established in 1977 as a public-private sector partnership, the Center for the Book uses the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy and libraries. For further information, visit www.loc.gov/cfbook.


PR 06-019
ISSN 0731-3527