Down The River of Doubt

Marc Meyers, UC San Diego
April 26, 2017, 11:00am - 12:00pm, EBU-II 479



Celebrating the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition on its Centennial

In 1914 Theodore Roosevelt embarked, unknowingly, into the most difficult task in his adventurous life: to descend the uncharted River of Doubt in the far reaches of Western Brazil, braving hostile native tribes, malaria, and piranhas. It was a particularly strained period in his life, after having lost his election bid, and the tour through South America was expected to be ‘a walk in the park.’ The expedition, co-led by Candido Rondon, legendary Brazilian explorer, succeeded at a high human cost and sacrifice: three deaths and the near loss of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, who asked, wounded and delirious, for the members to abandon him. As a celebration to this great feat of courage, a team, exactly 100 years later, mounted an expedition to retrace the original ​ route. The expedition had three objectives:

  • Retrace the original Roosevelt-Rondon expedition route to gain insight and celebrate the human endeavors and sacrifice of the first expedition.
  • Establish a broad-based collection of unique biological specimens to be found along the route and perform other scientific research.
  • Compare the changes over the past century by using Roosevelt’s original detailed reporting of geography, fauna, flora, and native inhabitants.
Led by Prof. Marc Meyers, a pioneer in the field of biologically inspired materials and design (originally from Brazil), the effort also had the participation of two Brazilian Army officers, Col. Hiram and Angonese, and the support of the Brazilian Army for the land portion. The expedition had a strong scientific emphasis and started in Caceres, crossing the Indigenous areas Paresi and Nambikwara lands on mostly on horseback and foot and descending the river on two kayaks and a canoe.


Dr. Marc André Meyers is Distinguished Professor in the Departments of NanoEngineering, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, U. of California, San Diego. His research field is the mechanical behavior of materials. In addition to 400 papers, he is the co-author of four technical books used in universities worldwide; three of them were translated into Chinese. He is Fellow of TMS, APS, and ASM International and is the 2010 recipient of the Acta Materialia Materials and Society Award. Additionally, he has awards from Europe (Heyn Medal of German Materials Society, Humboldt Society Senior Scientist Award and J. S. Rinehart Award from the EURODYMAT Association), China (Lee Hsun Lecture Award from the Institute of Metal Research; Visiting Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the US (TMS Morris Cohen Award, SMD/TMS Distinguished Scientist and Distinguished Service Awards, ASM International Albert Sauveur Award, TMS Educator Award, ASM Albert White Award, ASM Barrett Award ). The 2017 recipient of the APS George Duvall Shock Compression Award, he is also a corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and of the Institut Grand Ducal (Luxembourg Academy). Marc Meyers also writes fiction and poetry, including Abscission/Implosion, Mayan Mars, Chechnya Jihad, A Dama e o Luxemburguês (translated into French as D’amour et d’acier), and Yanomami. His latest foray into non-technical writing is the book River of Doubt.

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