5th January 1800. Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Sir Joseph Banks' Kew Gardens and as a deck hand on Captain Cook's HMS Resolution. Alma's mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, is conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones). An independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, it is not long before Alma comes into her own within the world of botany. But as Alma's careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction. The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. It soars across the globe from London to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters - missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad - most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.
Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on July 18, 1969. She received an undergraduate degree in political science from New York University. After college, she spent several years traveling around the country, working odd jobs and writing short stories. Early in her career, she also worked as a journalist for such publications as Spin, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. An article she wrote in GQ about her experiences bartending on the Lower East Side eventually became the basis for the movie Coyote Ugly.
She writes both fiction and nonfiction and her books include the short story collection Pilgrims, Stern Men, The Last American Man, and Committed. Her memoir "Eat, Pray, Love", was adapted into a movie starring Julia Roberts and led to Time Magazine naming her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2008. In 2010 Gilbert wrote the follow-up book to Eat, Pray, Love which she entitled, Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage.
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