The Spy Who Loved Frogs (Nature)
To track the fate of threatened species, a young scientist must follow the jungle path of a herpetologist who led a secret double life. Excerpt:
Rafe Brown's fascination with Taylor has gone beyond taxonomy. Early in his research, he became intrigued by “herpetology gossip” about Taylor's extracurricular activities. As he trotted around the globe, Taylor seemed to be conducting field work in conflict zones and, in his memoirs, he alluded to duties outside science7. While working for the fisheries department in Manila, he helped to investigate the murder of an Englishman, traded tips with the Swedish secret service and scouted for mercury that could be used in munitions during the First World War. On his river journeys, he occasionally noticed Japanese people, and warned the local governor that they were “spying out of the land”.
It was never clear to Taylor's few confidantes whether he used wars as an excuse to get into the field, or vice versa. In his obituary, a former student suggested that Taylor's later activities during the Second World War “probably will never be known in detail”.