Cambridge Trip #10: Natural History Museum, London

Tuesday, 12 July 2009

This morning I left Cambridge. I just want to make note of one of the books that sat on the nightstand in my bed and breakfast room:

Books in my room, Cambridge, England

Books in my room, Cambridge, England

That book on top is Period Piece by Gwen Raverat. Raverat was a granddaughter of Charles Darwin, and Period Piece is her memoir about her childhood in Cambridge, and recollections of the Darwin family.

Walking from my lodgings to the train station, I passed by the entrance to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. This, along with the Darwin and art exhibit Endless Forms at the Fitzwilliam Museum, is one of the places I wanted to visit but missed (the botanic garden has an exhibit on Darwin and carnivorous plants).

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

As I walked from the garden entrance to the train station, one of the wheels on my bag busted off. No good. At times I carried it and other times I just let the one side of the bag drag on the ground – it depended on the condition of the sidewalks: smooth or higgledly-piggledly. When on the train from Cambridge to London, the train’s power failed while in a  tunnel and we sat there for about 20 minutes. Remember that on the tube in London when heading to King’s Cross Station on my first day in England the track failed, leading to my regretting the decision to use the stairs rather than the elevator to get above ground. To and fro did not treat me well on this trip, but while I was at my destinations everything was great!

Before getting to Heathrow Airport, I decided to get off at the South Kensington station to quickly visit Karen James at the Natural History Museum (whom I had also seen in Cambridge). Turns out she was too busy with meetings, but I got to walk around the museum for about an hour, picked up a few souviners, and met up with another good friend. I was surprised at how many visitors there were in the museum. While that is understandable given the free admission, a  girl working in the museum store told me that this day was rather slow, because school had not yet let out. Here are some photos from my visit to NHM:

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

Butterfly Jungle, Natural History Museum, London

Butterfly Jungle, Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions, Natural History Museum, London

After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions, Natural History Museum, London

After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions was open but I hadn’t the time:

In After Darwin: Contemporary Expressions, major artists and writers exhibit newly-commissioned and existing work, inspired by Charles Darwin’s book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Their pieces explore Darwin’s theory that expressing emotion is not unique to humans, but is shared with animals.

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

Ammonite fossil, Natural History Museum, London

Ammonite fossil, Natural History Museum, London

Tree (Darwin-inspired ceiling art), Natural History Museum, London

Tree (Darwin-inspired ceiling art), Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Shop, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Shop, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Shop, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Shop, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Shop, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Shop, Natural History Museum, London

At the Darwin Shop I picked up coffee mug with Darwin’s tree of life sketch on it, and Kristan Lawson’s Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities:

Darwin Mug from Natural History Museum, London

Darwin Mug from Natural History Museum, London

Darwin and Evolution for Kids by Kristan Lawson

Darwin and Evolution for Kids by Kristan Lawson

I took pictures of the other books I got during the trip, and all the Darwin literature (brochures, postcards, etc.).

Marine Reptiles, Natural History Museum, London

Marine Reptiles, Natural History Museum, London

Plesiosaur, Natural History Museum, London

Plesiosaur, Natural History Museum, London

Diplodocus (Dippy), Natural History Museum, London

Diplodocus ("Dippy"), Natural History Museum, London

About this statue, which replaced a statue of Richard Owen at the top of the stairs:

The Darwin statue was created by Sir Joseph Boehm and was unveiled on 9 June 1885. In 1927 it was moved to make way for an Indian elephant specimen, and then moved again in 1970 to the North Hall. The statue’s return to its original prime position is in time for the anniversary of Darwin’s birth 200 years ago, and for the start of the programme of Darwin200 events.

Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London

It says:

“Freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science.”

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882)

Dedicated by The Rt Hon Andrew Burnham MP. Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, on the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, 12 February 2009

Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London

This is my favorite photo from the NHM:

Darwin reflecting on mans ancestry, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin reflecting on man's ancestry, Natural History Museum, London

Darwins view, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin's view, Natural History Museum, London

And of course, me with the man who gave reason for my trip to Cambridge:

Darwin & Me, Natural History Museum, London

Darwin & me, Natural History Museum, London

Woolly Rhino, Natural History Museum, London

Woolly Rhino, Natural History Museum, London

Toxodon, Natural History Museum, London

Toxodon, Natural History Museum, London

Here is the last photograph I took on the trip:

South Kensington station, London

South Kensington station, London

Made my way to Heathrow, got lunch, damn near missed my flight, flew to Minneapolis, bumped into George from the American Computer Museum in Bozeman there (we were on the same flight), and after a delay flew home to Bozeman. And that was that. Not bad for my first trip out of the United States. I will be going to London this fall for a research trip (archives at the Royal Insitution and Kew Gardens), and will spend more time at the Natural History Museum and – how can I not! – visit Down House, Darwin’s home and laboratory for four decades. If the Darwin biopic Creation (check out the very cool flash website) has not opened in the states yet, I will hopefully see it in London.

The HMS Beagle Project has recently started doing podcasts. The second episode features Karen and Richard, and they both talk about their time with me in Cambridge. Karen said my trip to Cambridge was my Mecca. You can listen to it here.

You can view all the photos from my trip here, if you feel so inclined. Some of Richard’s Cambridge photos are here.

PREVIOUS: Cambridge Trip #9: Darwin’s Room at Christ’s CollegeCambridge Trip #8: Darwin’s Microscope at the Whipple Museum of the History of ScienceCambridge Trip #7: Beetles, Finches and Barnacles at the University Museum of ZoologyCambridge Trip #6: Darwin the Geologist at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth SciencesCambridge Trip #5: Darwin Groupies Explore CambridgeCambridge Trip #4: Darwin in the Field Conference, Pt. 2Cambridge Trip #3: Darwin in the Field ConferenceCambridge Trip #2: Finding My WayCambridge Trip #1: Traveling

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Cambridge Trip #9: Darwin’s Room at Christ’s College

Monday, 13 July 2009

As I wrote in the last Cambridge post, historian of science John van Wyhe treated Richard and I to a look at the restored Darwin room at Christ’s College, although it was closed that day. Darwin used this room from 1828 to 1831, having first stayed in a room above the tobacconist’s on Sidney Street, the site now occupied by the store Boot’s the chemist (see here); and afterward the Beagle voyage in a room on Fitzwilliam Street (see here).

I shared previous photos from Christ’s College in this post, so here I will show you my shots from Darwin’s room and another statue on the college grounds:

Courtyard below Darwins Room at Christs College, University of Cambridge

Courtyard below Darwin's room at Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Sign for Darwins room, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Sign for Darwin's room, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Sign for Darwins room, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Sign for Darwin's room, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwins room, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin's room, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwins room, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin's room, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwins room, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin's room, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwins room, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin's room, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwin Bust by William Couper (replica), Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin bust by William Couper (replica), Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwin Bust by William Couper (replica), Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin bust by William Couper (replica), Christ's College, University of Cambridge

About the original bust:

The original bronze was commissioned by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) in 1909 and was given to the AmericanMuseum of Natural History to inaugurate its Darwin Hall of Invertebrate Zoology.  The original bust has since been returned to the offices of the NYAS where it resides today. A replica was cast by Couper in 1909 and given to Christ’s College,University of Cambridge, where Darwin studied.  The March 1909 issue of The American Museum Journal stated that “The bust is pronounced by those who knewDarwin personally and by his sons in England… the best portrait in the round of the great naturalist ever made.”

Darwin at Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin at Christ's College, University of Cambridge

Darwin Genealogy, Christs College, University of Cambridge

Darwin Genealogy, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

The Darwin Poems by Emily Ballou, Christs College, University of Cambridge

The Darwin Poems by Emily Ballou, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

I quoted from the poem “To be a seed” by Emily Ballou at the beginning of my conference talk (which was about Darwin’s seed dispersal experiments):

Late at night he imagined the dispersal of seeds
across seas, could imagine the distances
in the instances of finches
strewn by wind and wing
but how did those fragile seeds swim?
Were they carried in the guts of ducks
or trapped like bubbles in an ice floe
floating until slow snow melt released them?
Did they hook like barnacles to the wood of rafts?
And what of plants? And what of snake eggs
wholly floating, bobbing the waves
to new places? And once there, once born,
once cracked open,
how did one live on entirely foreign islands?
By wits? By chance? By sheer
stubborn determination
to be?

After Christ’s College, Richard and I bid farewell (he had to get back home for he worked the next day), and I continued to explore Cambridge.

Pembroke College, University of Cambridge

Pembroke College, University of Cambridge

I popped back in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences to get something for my son at their gift shop, but it was closed. So I looked around some more:

Plesiosaur, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Plesiosaur, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Invertebrate fossils, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Invertebrate fossils, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Ichthyosaur, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Ichthyosaur, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Christs Pieces, University of Cambridge

Christ's Pieces, University of Cambridge

Busses, Cambridge, England

Busses, Cambridge, England

Grand Arcade, Cambridge, England

Grand Arcade, Cambridge, England

Sign for Library Central, Cambridge, England

Sign for Library Central, Cambridge, England

Candy, Grand Arcade, Cambridge, England

Candy, Grand Arcade, Cambridge, England

Kings College, University of Cambridge

King's College, University of Cambridge

Kings Parade, University of Cambridge

King's Parade, University of Cambridge

Senate House, University of Cambridge

Senate House, University of Cambridge

Braille Map, University of Cambridge

Braille map, University of Cambridge

Heffers Bookstore, Cambridge, England

Heffers bookstore, Cambridge, England

I picked up Mark Pallen’s The Rough Guide to Evolution at Heffer’s, along with a book for my son and some postcards for family.

Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Punts to the River, University of Cambridge

Punts to the River, University of Cambridge

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Karen James had pointed out to me at King’s College how meticulous the grass lawns are kept in the colleges.

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Fitzwilliam Street, University of Cambridge

Fitzwilliam Street, University of Cambridge

Sheeps Green, Cambridge, England

Sheep's Green, Cambridge, England

Fairly close to my bed and breakfast was The Granta, with an Italian restaurant I decided to have dinner at.

Punting Boats, The Granta, Cambridge England

Punting Boats, The Granta, Cambridge England

Punting boats, The Granta, Cambridge, England

Punting boats, The Granta, Cambridge, England

Bella Italia, Cambridge, England

Bella Italia, Cambridge, England

Then I went to bed. One more Cambridge post to come, which will actually be about my quick stop at the Natural History Museum in London while on my way to Heathrow Airport.

You can view all the photos from my trip here, if you feel so inclined. Some of Richard’s Cambridge photos are here.

PREVIOUS: Cambridge Trip #8: Darwin’s Microscope at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science; Cambridge Trip #7: Beetles, Finches and Barnacles at the University Museum of ZoologyCambridge Trip #6: Darwin the Geologist at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth SciencesCambridge Trip #5: Darwin Groupies Explore CambridgeCambridge Trip #4: Darwin in the Field Conference, Pt. 2Cambridge Trip #3: Darwin in the Field ConferenceCambridge Trip #2: Finding My WayCambridge Trip #1: Traveling

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

George Gaylord Simpson (Died 6 Oct 1984; born 16 June 1902). U.S. paleontologist known for his contributions to evolutionary theory and to the understanding of intercontinental migrations of animal species in past geological times. Simpson specialized in early fossil mammals, leading expeditions on four continents and discovering in 1953 the 50-million-year old fossil skulls of dawn horses in Colorado. He helped develop the modern biological theory of evolution, drawing on paleontology, genetics, ecology, and natural selection to show that evolution occurs as a result of natural selection operating in response to shifting environmental conditions. He spent most of his career as a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History.

Bernard-Germain-Étienne Lacépède (Died 6 Oct 1825; born 26 Dec 1756). (Bernard-Germain-) Étienne de La Ville-sur-Illon, comte de (count of) Lacépède, was a French naturalist interested in herpetology and ichthyology. Buffon secured him a position at the Jardin du Roi (later the Jardin des Plantes) and invited him to continue his work Histoire Naturelle in animal classification. To supplement Buffon’s work, Lacépède published several volumes which dealt with the oviparous quadrupeds (1788), reptiles (1789), fishes (1798-1803), and whales (1804). After the French Revolution, he became a politician, which activity prevented him making any further contribution of importance to science.

Huntington exhibit spotlights Darwin

From Pasadena Star-News:

Huntington exhibit spotlights Darwin

Photo Gallery: Darwin exhibit

MARINO – Nearly 150 years after Charles Darwin published his seminal work, “Origin of Species,” evolution is still a “polarizing word” in this country, David Zeidberg, director of the Huntington Library, said Friday.

Darwin may be best known for his study of animal evolution – long the primary source of religious debate. But, Zeidberg said, much of Darwin’s understanding of life on Earth was influenced by his lifelong botanical research into how plants change and adapt.

“Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure,” opening today at the Huntington, focuses on that aspect of his work.

The exhibit originated at the New York Botanical Garden and is making its only West Coast appearance at the Huntington. It illustrates the formation of Darwin’s ideas on evolution through more than 60 items, writings in his own hand, rare books and prints, including some from the Huntington’s own Darwin collection.

Darwin’s theory of evolution was formulated within a framework of religious belief, Zeidberg said, and in his time it wasn’t regarded as an “either/or” choice. Subtler “theories of transmutation” had been around for some time, Zeidberg said, put forward by people with religious upbringings suggesting that plants and animals adapted over time.

Proof of that theory in regard to plants is hard to argue with, Zeidberg said.

“There’s the hybridization of plants for food purposes,” he said. “If they were immutable, you couldn’t get a seedless grape.”

Dan Lewis, senior curator at the Huntington’s soon-to-open Dibner Hall of the History of Science, said he wasn’t surprised that evolution is still being questioned.

“Religious beliefs are resilient,” he said. “They live on in the face of many things people call rational or irrational – that’s what makes it faith.”

Still, if alternate theories such as creationism are taught as science rather than religion, Zeidberg said, they should be put to the same rigorous scientific tests as evolution.

The Darwin exhibit has a strong personal touch, reaching back to his childhood in England. A chalk portrait from 1816, with his sister Catherine, shows the 6-year-old Darwin clutching a potted plant to his chest.

The exhibit’s three parts highlight his early formative years and education; his development of “Origin of Species,” based on his botanical research; and evolutionary botany. It chronicles his voyage aboard HMS Beagle, 1831-36, where he collected plants in the Galapagos Islands.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 5 at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road. For information, visit huntington.org or call (626) 405-2100.

Darwin’s Garden Opens at The Huntington Library

From Artdaily.org:

Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure Opens at The Huntington Library

SAN MARINO, CA Charles Darwin (1809–1882) is best known for his theory of evolution and other natural history achievements, but little is known about his enduring and insightful work with plants and the important role they played in formulating his ideas. “Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure” at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens explores the untold story of these botanical influences, Darwin’s research, his contribution to the understanding of plants, and ultimately, of life in general. The exhibition will be on display in the West Hall of the Library from Oct. 4, 2008, to Jan. 5, 2009.

The exhibition originated at the New York Botanical Garden, with curator David Kohn, Darwin expert and Drew University science and society professor emeritus. “Kohn amply illustrates that Darwin’s early work in botany was the basis for his theories of evolution,” says David Zeidberg, the Avery Director of the Huntington Library, who welcomes the exhibition to its only traveling venue. “Origin of Species focuses on animals, but it was Darwin’s work on plants that laid the foundation for the great work.” Next year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the book.

The exhibition features more than 60 items, including rare books, manuscripts, and prints from the New York Botanical Garden’s collection and loans from private individuals and institutions such as the Cambridge Herbarium, Cambridge University Library, Down House (Darwin’s home), the archives and library of the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, and the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society. Some items from Cambridge are too fragile to travel, but facsimiles will Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure be available for viewing. The Huntington will display its own copies of a selection of items from the exhibition checklist, including The Botanic Garden (1791) by Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin; Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), which features drawings of the first microscopic views of plant cells; and James Bateman’s The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatamala (1837–43), a large-format book containing 40 color plates of orchids.

Darwin’s work with plants provided credible and enduring evidence in support of his theory of evolution through natural selection. He laid the foundation of modern botany as an evolutionary discipline. Darwin also became an expert on virtually every British species of orchid. He discovered and demonstrated that the key to orchid pollination was the touch of an insect’s proboscis, which releases spring-loaded pollen. From this breakthrough Darwin structured a convincing argument for adaptation by natural selection. He contended that plants—no less than animals—are sensitive creatures in possession of behaviors that permit them to respond to their environment, including elements such as sunlight, touch, and gravity. Plants climb over neighbors, track the movement of the sun, capture and digest insects, and respond to the “touch from a child’s hair.” Darwin delighted in discovering these adaptations.

The exhibition is divided into three parts: Darwin’s formative years in education; development of Origin of Species based on botanical work; and evolutionary botany. As an undergraduate, Darwin collected specimens for his botany professor’s herbarium. While still a young man, he traveled aboard the HMS Beagle, writing in his journal that his mind was “a chaos of delight” as he reveled in the luxuriance of tropical forests. He spent much of his time collecting plants along with fossil bones and bird skins. Darwin’s collection of “all plants in flower” from the Galápagos Islands, for example, became the basis for the first flora of that archipelago and provided his strongest evidence for evolution.

“Even before he had gone on that trip, he began to crossbreed plants,” says Zeidberg. “This early study of variation would become another principle of Origin of Species and one of the underlying concepts of the notion of survival of the fittest.”

The exhibition also chronicles Darwin’s professional friendships and intellectual exchanges with leading botanists of the era, including Joseph Dalton Hooker, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and Asa Gray, renowned Harvard University botanist, and shows how they contributed to Origin of Species.

The exhibition begins just weeks before the grand opening of The Huntington’s new Dibner Hall on the History of Science. The permanent installation, titled “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World,” opens Nov. 1 and will showcase galleries devoted to four subject areas: astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. The section devoted to natural history will include a 20 foot wide display of more than 300 editions and translations of Origins of Species, including one of The Huntington’s four copies of the first edition of that seminal work.

A catalog of the exhibition, Darwin’s Garden: An Evolutionary Adventure, by guest curator David Kohn, will be available for purchase in the Huntington Bookstore & More.