Chaos is the only sure thing in this world. The master that rules us all. My scientist father taught me early that there is no escaping the Second Law of Thermodynamics: entropy is only growing; it can never be diminished, no matter what we do. (Location 29)

But as I grew older, as Chaos had her way with me, as I made a wreck of my own life and began to try to piece it back together, I started to wonder about this taxonomist. Maybe he had figured something out—about persistence, or purpose, or how to go on—that I needed to know. (Location 54)

Who are you? I wondered. A cautionary tale? Or a model of how to be? (Location 59)

1. A Boy with His Head in the Stars

A special proof of scientific as distinguished from aesthetic interest is to care for the hidden and insignificant.” (Location 122)

Psychologists have studied this, by the way, the sweet salve that collecting can offer in times of anguish. (Location 151)

notes that the habit often kicks into high gear after some sort of “deprivation or loss or vulnerability,” (Location 153)

2. A Prophet on an Island

he believed that the best way to teach science was to scrutinize nature. “Study nature, not books” was his motto, (Location 184)

Indeed, in his writings Agassiz is clear: he believes that every single species is a “thought of God,” and that the work of taxonomy is to literally “translat[e] into human language… the thoughts of the Creator.” (Location 257)