Barefoot on Lava Newest Bishop Press Book Release; Hawai‘i Naturalist R. C. L. Perkins Subject of Ten-year Research Project

Bishop Museum Entomologist Neal L. Evenhuishas spent the last ten years researching the life and work of the great naturalist Robert Cyril Layton Perkins whose tireless fieldwork during three expeditions to Hawai‘i formed the foundation of our understanding of Hawaiian zoology. Mid-May, Bishop Press will release the fruits of his long labor.

Published by Bishop Press, Barefoot on Lava: The Journals and Correspondence of Naturalist R. C. L. Perkins in Hawai‘i, 1892-1901 (Hardcover, $29.95) will be released in mid-May and available in Bishop Museum’s Shop Pacifica and other fine booksellers.

The catalog of our earth was largely written by the eminent naturalists of the 19 th century. Among the leading Naturalists of that era are John James Audubon who gave us Birds of America; Alexander von Humboldt who explored the Amazon Basin; Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace who amassed tens of thousands of biological specimens; and perhaps the most famous, Charles Darwin whose comparative study of the Galapagos finches during the expedition of the Beagle prefigured the revolution that he and Huxley would provoke a decade later with the publication of the Origin of the Species.

Perkins conducted his collections and fieldwork in Hawai‘i between 1892 and 1901. His masterpiece, the three-volume Fauna Hawaiiensis, was one of the last accomplishments of these extraordinary 19 th century scientists. He was the quintessential biological collector. He predicted more than a hundred years ago, the mass extinctions of many of Hawai‘i’s endemic species.

The naturalist was a shy man and very self-effacing, working quietly and without a lot of fanfare during his time here, although he did have access to the Hawaiian court of royalty and ended up marrying Zoe Atkinson, the social coordinator for Queen Lili‘uokalani. Unlike his more famous colleagues, Perkins left little behind in the way of letters or journals from which later biographers could glean insights into his personality, methods, and style.

Until Evenhuis’ remarkable new portrait in Barefoot on Lava, readers have not had much to go on. Evenhuis spent ten years researching the archives of Bishop Museum, Oxford University, the British Museum, The Hawai‘i Sugar Planters Association, and the private correspondence of Perkins’s friends and colleagues. The newly discovered material has been assembled into a unique and fascinating format that includes letters, journal entries, and news accounts from Perkins’s life.

“Perkins was the last observer of so many species,” says Evenhuis. “His work gives us a rare and compelling glimpse into a Hawai‘i long past and nearly forgotten.”

For more information about Barefoot on Lava or Bishop Press, call (808) 848-4135 or visit

About the Author: Neal Evenhuis, Ph.D. is the Chairman of Department of Natural Sciences at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu , Hawai‘i . Bishop Museum was founded in 1889. It maintains the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific cultural and natural history objects and since its founding has as been a premier institution for research and public education. 

Neal Evenhuis was born in Southern California in 1952, the son of Dutch immigrants. He attended California State Polytechnic University in Pomona , California graduating with a B. S. in Entomology/Botany in 1974 and a Masters in Biology in 1978. He received a Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 1988.

Evenhuis began his work at Bishop Museum in 1976 as a scientific illustrator. After a few years he entered the research track in the department and began his studies on the taxonomy of Pacific flies (Diptera). Soon after receiving his PhD, he was promoted to full Entomologist. He has served as the Chairman of Natural Sciences since 1998.

In his over 30 years of service to the Museum, Evenhuis has published over 350 scientific publications and described over 500 species of insects new to science. His research has taken him into the field in such places as Fiji , French Polynesia , Australia , Japan , Malaysia , Singapore , Mexico , the western United States , southern Africa as well as throughout most of the Hawaiian Islands . His accomplishments were recognized in 1992 by the Entomological Society of America when received the prestigious Thomas Say Award for entomological research.

Bishop Museum ’s natural sciences collections contain more than 22 million organisms. The Museum’s research expeditions for the last 100 years throughout the Pacific have resulted in those collections being the 4th largest in the United States and one of the top ten in the world. They are unsurpassed in their holdings of Hawaiian plants and animals and serve as the state repository for all voucher specimens collected in the state. Outside of Hawai‘i the Museum’s holdings are strongest in New Guinea , Pacific Islands , Philippines , and Southeast Asia . The Museum attracts more than 800 visiting scientists a year who use the natural sciences collection as an essential reference for their studies.

In addition to his research, Evenhuis creates the popular Good Guys and Bad Guys trading cards that depict native (good guys) and alien (bad guys) species found in Hawai‘i and are given out free to Hawai’i's schools. He is also Editor for Scholarly Publications at Bishop Museum Press and is on the editorial boards of seven international scientific journals. In 2007, he wrote, Barefoot on Lava: The Journals and Correspondence of Naturalist R. C. L. Perkins in Hawai‘i, 1892-1901, published by Bishop Press.


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