The Linnean Society en-GB Tue, 09 Jul 2019 10:00:00 +0100 Wed, 26 Jun 2019 19:05:46 +0100 9th July 2019: Meet the Team — Librarian Tue, 09 Jul 2019 09:00:00 +0000

Our last Meet the Team profile is on our newest staff member, Will Beharrell.

Will Beharrell

What are the key parts to your role?

I’m responsible for the smooth running of the Society’s beautiful library. I also promote our library collections among the scholarly community - and the wider public - through outreach events, publications, international networks, and social media. On the side, I act as administrator for the Linnaeus Link project, and sit on the Collections Committee.

What do you like about your job?

I’m brand new to the role, so it’s hard to answer definitively. I’ve been very impressed with how open the library is to visiting scholars, students, tour groups, and other interested parties. Being able to show off our wonderful collections to an appreciative audience is a real privilege, and I’m keen to follow the great example set by my colleagues.

How did you end up in this job?

Before coming to the Linnean Society I spent much of my career in Oxford. After studying English Literature at Merton College, I developed an interest in rare books and special collections and decided to retrain as a librarian. After a graduate traineeship at All Souls College, I qualified at UCL and worked in a variety of roles for All Souls, Merton, The Bodleian Libraries, and the English Faculty Library. I was Assistant Librarian at Magdalen College, Oxford for two years before joining the Linnean Society as Librarian in June 2019.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Equus caballus
Equus ferus caballus; Charles D' Orbigny, Dictionnaire Universel D'histoire Naturelle (1843-49)
Piper nigrum
Piper nigrum (Linnaean collection)

Animal: Equus ferus caballus.

My grandfather was a jockey, and my family have worked with horses (in a thoroughly non-aristocratic capacity) for several generations.

Plant: Piper nigrum.

I’m an enthusiastic if unskilled cook, and there are few meals that can’t be improved by freshly-ground black pepper. It also has a fascinating social and economic history.

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

As I say, I’m brand-new to the Society, so I’ve only seen a fraction of the collections. Ask me again in six months, and I’ll give a different answer! For the time being, my favourite item is Sibthorpe’s Flora Graeca. This monumental, ten-volume masterpiece was prepared for publication by the James Edward Smith, and is stuffed with beautiful botanical engravings. Only twenty-five sets were published, and the Society’s own copies have been handsomely rebound, and painstakingly coloured by hand.

Helleborus officinalis
Helleborus officinalis; John Sibthorpe's Flora Graeca, 1806-37

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a keen traveller, walker, and reader, and trained as a musician in a past life. Otherwise, I enjoy cooking, going to the cinema, and playing board and video games. I’m also attempting to improve my language skills.

1st July 2019: Why there was no ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 12:00:00 +0000

This article has been adapted from the original article posted in the Linnean Vol 35 issue 1 (April 2019).

T. H. Huxley in 'Men of the Day' Vanity Fair, January 1871 © John van Wyhe​

‘Darwin’s bulldog’ is one of the most famous nicknames in the history of science. Virtually every mention of the Victorian zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95) includes this pithy epithet. Equally ubiquitous is the claim that Huxley was known by this name during the 19th-century debates over Darwinism. Adrian Desmond’s racy 1997 biography of Huxley uses the phrase many times, but never mentions where it comes from although the back cover of the book states that Huxley was “often referred to as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’” (Desmond 1997). In a popular history of science, historian William Bynum wrote that by 1863 Huxley “had already assumed his mantle as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’” (Bynum 2012). Figuratively speaking this is no doubt true, but most references to this famous sobriquet indicate that this is not just what Huxley was, but what he was known as. For example, the primatologist Frans de Waal noted that, during his lifetime, Huxley “had gained a reputation as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ owing to his fierce advocacy of evolution” (de Waal 2009: 7) and in a popular biography for juvenile readers, Anna Sproule wrote: “Huxley sprang to Darwin's defense whenever necessary and was soon known as ‘Darwin's bulldog’” (Sproule 2002). The biologist Tim Berra attributed the nickname to a specific event: “[Huxley] earned nickname of ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ for his staunch defense of Darwin at an Oxford debate with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce in 1860 and in published articles” (Berra 2013:36; also Henderson 2013). This has been repeated by countless writers. It has probably been repeated in tens of thousands of student essays. And its popularity is still increasing.

Huxley is one of the most famous characters in the so-called Darwinian revolution. Apparently few today remember his actual scientific work in comparative anatomy. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in December 1858 and awarded the Linnean Medal in 1890. But he is most celebrated for his pugnacious defence and promotion of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory after the publication of On the origin of species in 1859.

To the Curs which will Bark

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin © Linnean Society of London

After reading an advance copy of the book, Huxley wrote to Darwin on 23 November 1859 about the impending attacks and objections that were likely to come. “And as to the curs which will bark and yelp, you must recollect that some of your friends, at any rate, are endowed with an amount of combativeness which (though you have often and justly rebuked it) may stand you in good stead. I am sharpening up my claws and beak in readiness.” (F. Darwin 1887, vol. 2: 232). In this oft-quoted passage, Huxley refers to the critics as dogs (a cur is a worthless, low bred dog) and himself as a bird of prey.

Huxley’s combativeness is most widely remembered today for his part in the infamous Huxley-Wilberforce ‘debate’ at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford. According to a letter from J. R. Green to W. Boyd Dawkins dated 3 July 1860 (Stephen 1901, 44–45), Bishop Samuel Wilberforce taunted Huxley “if it ‘was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey?’” Huxley is said to have replied:

a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel ashamed in recalling, it would rather be a man—a man of restless and versatile intellect—who not content with success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.

Judd 1910, 140

A bulldog seems like the perfect title for Huxley. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition: “Applied to persons: One that possesses the obstinate courage of the bulldog.” Bulldogs had been traditionally used in bull baiting, in which the small snub-nosed dogs would chase, harass and bite a massive bull many times their size. Hence bulldogs had a reputation for courage and ferocity. A writer in the Journal of Horticulture in 1873 noted: “We say of a bold plucky orator, ‘Ah! he has so much of the British bulldog in him’” (Anon 1873: 52). Thus Huxley surely could have been called this since it was widely agreed that he was a plucky and courageous orator.

What bulldog?

Henry Fairfield Osborn
Henry Fairfield Osborn, The American Museum Journal (1916) XVI © John van Wyhe​

It should come as a surprise then to discover that, in fact, Huxley was not widely known as or indeed ever referred to as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ during his lifetime. The name occurs in no 19th-century newspapers, magazines or books. It has never been quoted from a contemporary diary or letter.

The nickname first appeared in a lecture by the American palaeontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1895, shortly after Huxley’s death in June that year. As Osborn later wrote, “I had the privilege of listening to [Huxley’s] great course of lectures on comparative anatomy and evolution during the winter of 1879–80....” (Osborn 1925: 654). One day in 1879 Huxley brought Darwin for a tour of the laboratory and Osborn, then a 22-year-old student, was introduced to him. Sixteen years later, Osborn reflected on the differences between the two naturalists.

There was the widest possible contrast in the two faces. Darwin’s grayish-white hair and bushy eyebrows overshadowed the pair of deeply set blue eyes, which seemed to image his wonderfully calm and deep vision of nature, and at the same time to emit benevolence. Huxley’s piercing black eyes and determined and resolute face were full of admiration and at the same time protection of his older friend. He said afterwards: ‘You know I have to take care of him—in fact, I have always been Darwin’s bull-dog,’ and this exactly expressed one of the many relations which existed so long between the two men.

Osborn 1896: 32

Osborn gave almost the same lecture later that November repeating the bulldog sentence verbatim (Osborn 1895). Thirty years later still, Osborn told the story again, but what had at first been represented as a single utterance was now increased to a frequent saying. “Huxley was solicitous of Darwin’s strength, and often alluded to himself as ‘Darwin’s bull dog.’” (Osborn 1924: 58). Osborn told this story on at least one further occasion, in 1925, using almost the identical wording: “Often alluding to himself as ‘Darwin’s bull-dog,’ he took the brunt of the fighting.” (Osborn 1925: 660). It is interesting to note that the first two accounts represent Huxley as protective and shepherding Darwin whereas only the latter represents the nickname as connected with fighting.

But by this time Osborn’s first recollection had already spawned literary offspring. Probably the most influential was that quintessential Victorian biographical monument, Huxley’s Life and letters (1900). Edited by his son Leonard, Osborn’s wording was changed from “I have always been Darwin’s bull-dog” to “‘I am Darwin’s bull-dog,’ he once said”, thus removing the link between a recollection by Osborn and instead coming straight from Huxley’s mouth, although here it was still represented as a one-time statement (L. Huxley 1900, vol. 1: 363). Leonard Huxley did not give a source so his volume has generally been credited for our knowledge that T. H. Huxley called himself and was generally known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ during the controversies over Darwinism in the 1860s and 1870s. Thus from the 1900s onwards the sobriquet ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ has proliferated ever more. By the 1920s it was already commonplace to say that “Huxley was known in his day as Darwin’s bull-dog” (Dietrich 1927: 96). And by that time there were few contemporaries left who would have been able to remember such things.

There seems to be no reason to doubt that Huxley may have once called himself ‘Darwin’s bulldog’, but we should remember that our source is both second-hand and a recollection of a sentence uttered almost 20 years before. And yet, virtually every writer on Darwin and Huxley has noted the commonplace ‘fact’ that during the Victorian debates over Darwinism, Huxley was known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’. He wasn’t.

It is true that Huxley was widely known as a defiant defender of Darwinism. But imagining that he was widely acknowledged as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ obscures some of the historical reality, such as the fact that he had his own (non-Darwinian) ideas about evolution and was long tentative about the efficacy of natural selection. Appreciating that he was not known as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ should lead to a more nuanced recognition of who he was and what he really did. If one of the most widely known, enjoyed and unquestioned nicknames in the history of science is incorrect, what other undisputed facts might also be wrong?

Thomas Henry Huxley
T. H. Huxley © Linnean Society of London

By John van Wyhe FLS,

Department of Biological Sciences and Tembusu College, National University of Singapore

University Professorial Fellow, Charles Darwin University

Acknowledgements I am grateful to Kees Rookmaaker for helpful assistance.


  • Anon. 1873. Dogs in general. Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentlemen 25: 52.
  • Berra T. M. 2013. Wallace’s acceptance of Darwin’s priority in his own words. The Linnean 29(2) 23–40.
  • Bynum W. 2012. A little history of science. Yale.
  • Darwin F. (Ed.). 1887. The life and letters of Charles Darwin. 3 volumes. John Murray, London.
  • de Waal F. 2009. Primates and philosophers: how morality evolved. Princeton.
  • Desmond A. 1997. Huxley: from devil's disciple to evolution's high priest. Penguin, London.
  • Dietrich J. H. 1927. The fathers of evolution. Minneapolis.
  • Henderson M. 2013. 50 genetics ideas you really need to know. Quercus editions, London (ebook).
  • Huxley L. (Ed.). 1900. The life and letters of Thomas Henry Huxley. Volume 1. London.
  • Judd J. W. 1910. The coming of evolution: The story of a great revolution in science. Cambridge.
  • Osborn H. F. 1895. Memorial tribute to Professor Thomas H. Huxley. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences 15: 40–50.
  • Osborn H. F. 1896. A student’s reminiscences of Huxley. Biological lectures delivered at the Marine Biological Laboratory of Wood’s Hole, in the summer session of 1895. Ginn & company, Boston, vol. 4: 29–42
  • Osborn H. F. 1924. Charles Darwin. In Impressions of great naturalists. New York, London.
  • Osborn H. F. 1925. Reminiscences of Huxley. North American Review 221, No. 827, (Jun.–Aug.): 654–664.
  • Sproule A. 2002. Charles Darwin: visionary behind the theory of evolution. Blackbirch Press.
  • Stephen L. (Ed). 1901. Letters of John Richard Green. Macmillan, London.
  • Wyhe J. van (Ed.) 2002-. The complete work of Charles Darwin online. (
25th June 2019: Meet the Team — Archivist Tue, 25 Jun 2019 09:00:00 +0000

Our latest Meet the Team profile is on our Archivist, Liz McGow.

Liz McGow

What are the key parts to your role?

I oversee the administration and care of the archives held by the Society. The role, which is part of the larger Collections Team, involves the day-to-day running of the Archives, including cataloguing work; answering enquiries and assisting researchers in the Reading Room; managing volunteers and student placements; outreach work including giving tours, producing displays and writing blogs; and contributing to the work of the Events and Educations staff.

What do you like about your job?

Working with such varied and historic material on a daily basis is a real joy. My absolute favourite part of the job is delving in to boxes of archives which have been largely untouched for years and finding out more about them. Just this week we came across 6 personal diaries, dated 1906-1912, written by a Griffith Humphreys. From further research, he turned out to be a ‘Society entertainer’ by profession as well as an amateur natural historian. They are beautifully written accounts of his daily life and contain regular observations on nature (including creatures he used to keep in his house!). He also records his weight, height and collar size at the beginning of most volumes.

How did you end up in this job?

In the summer before doing my MA in Classics at Durham University I worked in ticket sales at Windsor Castle and whilst there heard about the Royal Archives based in the Round Tower and the work of the Archivists based there. The idea that I could be paid for nosing around in historical papers had me hooked and I’ve never looked back since! Since qualifying from UCL in Archives and Records Management I have worked in a number of institutions including the Wallace Collection, the Royal Society, Lambeth Palace Library, the Paul Mellon Centre, and the Royal London Hospital. I was over the moon to get the Archivist role at the Linnean Society as the collections are so fascinating and diverse.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Lewin’s Tasmanian Tiger
Drawing of Tasmanian Tiger by John Lewin
Fratercula arctica in the Faroe Islands © Wikimedia Commons

In our archive we hold an early drawing of a Tasmanian Tiger by John Lewin, dated c. 1809 [Ref: MS/630]. Unsubstantiated reports of attacks on livestock in the 19th century led to aggressive hunting by bounty hunters and farmers and they were officially declared extinct in 1936. The tragic story of their demise and their beautiful and unusual appearance makes them my favourite animal.

On a cheerier note, my second favourite creature is the Puffin. We saw them on a recent trip to Iceland and they are even more adorable (and tiny!) up close.

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

There are so many treasures to choose from but my favourite item in the archive is a travel diary [Ref: MS/174a] by one of the Society’s Founder Fellows, John Timothy Swainson (1756-1824). Dated 1799, it’s a beautifully written account of Swainson’s journey from London to the Lake District and contains wonderful descriptions of everything he sees along the way including details of landmarks, customs, people and scenery. It’s a glorious snapshot of life at the turn of the 18th Century!

Swainson diary
John Timothy Swainson's diary

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Anything history related really but I’m a huge fan of the National Trust and enjoy going to their properties and learning about the people who lived and worked there! I also love going to the theatre and concerts.

18th June 2019: Meet the Team — Conservator Tue, 18 Jun 2019 09:00:00 +0000

Our latest Meet the Team profile is on our Conservator, Janet Ashdown.

Janet Ashdown

What are the key parts to your role?

As the Society’s conservator I take care of the collections, ensuring they are preserved for the future.

What do you like about your job?

There is a huge variety of material in the Society’s collections – books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, paintings and natural history specimens. I am always learning new skills and techniques that help me care for them.

How did you end up in this job?

I started working part-time at the Society in 2000 repairing books and working in the office. In 2002 I became the full-time conservator.

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

carpological colllection 12

When I first joined the Society I was asked to look at Smith’s Carpological collection with a view to conserving it. Because of other priorities this wasn’t possible until 2018 when the Society was awarded a grant towards cleaning and housing this fascinating collection of seeds and economic botany. You can read about the collection here. We also recently had a lunchtime lecture by Dr Maria Zytaruk on the history of seed exchange which focused on the packaging the collections were held in.

11th June 2019 – Meet the Team: Executive Secretary Tue, 11 Jun 2019 14:04:00 +0000

This week we speak to our Executive Secretary, Dr Elizabeth Rollinson FLS.

Elizabeth Rollinson

What are the key parts to your role?

My job involves oversight of the Society’s day-to-day operations, facilitating implementation of the Society’s strategic and charitable aims by the staff team and volunteers. I provide support to the President and other Trustees, participate in the many Council, Committees and other meetings, support the Fellows where possible, and work with the other Courtyard Societies.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety and working with the highly professional and creative team in the most wonderful setting. I drink a lot of tea.

How did you end up in this job?

Long story, short… husband saw the ad and said I would love the job (and I do!). My career has focused on research in infectious diseases, moving from a PhD on a fungal disease of wheat, to chemotherapy and vaccine development against viruses of veterinary importance, to viral-vectors to treat cancers caused by viruses in humans — focusing on anti-nicotine and anti-cocaine vaccines along the way. I also had a 3-year science advisory role in Paris for an intergovernmental organisation, but couldn’t wait to get back to the research bench.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

© Wikimedia Commons

I absolutely adore the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) (the world’s largest rodent). Saxifrages (especially silver) and peonies are my favourite flowers.

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

Ferns of Great Britain
The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland

I just love going into the collections store and inhaling the air there – always make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I’ve adopted Moore’s Ferns of Great Britain, which has the amazing original nature prints by Henry Bradbury (you should read Simon Prett & Pia Östlund’s treatise The Nature-Printer: A Tale of Industrial Espionage, Ferns and Roofing-Lead, and see the special edition held in the Library).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Apart from family, which takes an increasing amount of time with three grandchildren now on the scene, and caring for our chronically mentally ill son, I have three real passions: my horse (eventing), our garden, and print making, especially nature-printing. David and I also like to travel to remote places and immerse ourselves in nature and photography.

Elizabeth Horses
4th June 2019 – Meet The Team: Digital Assets Manager Tue, 04 Jun 2019 09:00:00 +0000

This week we find out more about our Digital Assets Manager, Andrea Deneau.

Andrea Deneau

What are the key parts to your role?

My job at the Society is to manage our Online Collections, our internal images, and image and copyright requests. I also do much of the still photography (non-events) at the Society.

What do you like most about your job?

I like working directly with the collections. I studied to work with museum collections so it’s nice that although so much of my job is digital, I still get to physically handle objects. I like having to create special lighting or mounts in order to photograph more awkward items.

How did you end up in this job?

This is one of those “one thing led to another” stories. I have a degree in Biology and a diploma in Museum Studies and I was working on a project with the special collections in the Library at the Natural History Museum. My contract was coming to an end and a colleague who was on a committee with Linnean Society people knew the Society was looking for someone to do a project on its legacy journals, which I ended up doing. After that, I worked on three major digitisation projects and then someone was needed to manage all of these newly-acquired digital assets so I became the Digital Assets Manager.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

How is it possible to choose a favourite in nature? However, I have become a bit of a (very amateur) gardener and I have really gotten into Geum, which is kind of funny since the genus is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae) and I’m not that into roses. Anyway, I love the flowers and vibrant colours and they really brighten up a garden for quite a long time every spring and summer.

Geum Rivale
Geum rivale (Water Avens) by James Edward Smith (JES/COR/14/1)

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

I love the quirks, as most people do. While working on the Linnaean Manuscripts, there were several unexpected drawings and doodles supposedly by both Linnaeus and his son. Draughtsmen they were not but the sketches reveal that even in the 18th century, if you give someone a pen and paper and boredom, they can’t help but doodle.

Collection items

What do you like to do in your spare time?

As mentioned above, I love to garden and this is my second summer on my allotment. I spend my commute reading and my lunch-hour swimming. I also love to bake and cook.

29th May 2019: Medal Winners 2019 Wed, 29 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000 Medal Winners
Medal Winners from Left to Right: Prof Samuel Turvey, Dr Sarah Hill, Dr Goronwy Wynne, Dr Steve Portugal, Dr Leanne Melbourne, Deborah Lambkin and Dr John Burton

At our Anniversary Meeting on Friday 24th May 2019, Professor Paul Henderson—Vice President of the Linnean Society of London— presented our Medals and Prizes to celebrate the achievements of academics across the natural sciences.

Below is a list of the medal and award winners.

Samuel Turvey received the Linnean Medal (Zoology) awarded to a biologist for their service to science.

Samuel Turvey

Steve Portugal received the Bicentenary Medal awarded to a biologist under the age of 40 years in recognition of excellent work.

Steve Portugal

Leanne Melbourne FLS received the Irene Manton Prize. This prize is awarded to a PhD student for the best botany thesis in an academic year.

Leanne Melbourne

Sarah Hill was awarded the John C Marsden Medal for the best doctoral thesis in biology.

Sarah Hill

Goronwy Wynne FLS received the H H Bloomer Award awarded to an amateur naturalist for an important contribution to biological knowledge.

Goronwy Wynne

John Burton FLS received the John Spedan Lewis Medal awarded to an individual who is making a significant and innovative contribution to conservation.

John Burton

Deborah Lambkin received the Jill Smythies Award awarded to a botanical artist for outstanding illustrations.

Deborah Lambkin

Unfortunately not all our medal winners could attend the ceremony.

  • Vicki Funk was awarded the Linnean Medal (Botany). The Linnean Medal is awarded to a biologist for their service to science
  • Svante Pääbo and David Reich were awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal, which is to persons who have made major advances in evolutionary biology.
  • Marco Lukic was awarded the David Attenborough Fieldwork award.

The Linnean Society seeks to encourage excellence in the natural sciences by awarding a series of medals and prizes to scientists and artists for outstanding work in their fields. Nominations for 2020 are now open and will close on 30th November 2019.

21st May 2019 – Meet The Team: BioMedia Project Manager Tue, 21 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000

This week we have a chat with our BioMedia Project Manager, Daryl Stenvoll-Wells.


What are the key parts to your role?

Designing and delivering the BioMedia Meltdown workshops and associated programming for teachers, students and families.

What do you like most about your job?

The challenge of connecting life science with active arts education; getting out and about all over London; assisting schools in becoming more collaborative and interdisciplinary; recognising young peoples’ creativity; and working with talented, interesting and fun groups of people.

How did you end up in this job?

I taught art in schools in Los Angeles, New York, DC and London over the years. After I had my son I moved into museum and gallery education, but museum learning departments have been decimated by austerity and are therefore working more with freelancers, whereas I wanted something more consistent. I also felt the art world has become so conceptual that it was inaccessible to many of the disadvantaged communities I wanted to work with. I decided to shift my focus to learning and engagement attached to an organisation where education wouldn’t always take a back seat to other concerns.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Elephas Indicus Indian Elephant
Charles D'Orbigny. Dictionnaire Universel D'histoire Naturelle (1843-49)

I love elephants, although when I went on safari in Tanzania, a bull threatened to charge our jeep. They’re terrifying when you see them out in the wild!

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

It’s not a single item, but Linnaeus’ notebooks are fascinating to me, especially the drawings. He’s not a master draughtsman, but his style is very expressive and similar to some modern artists hundreds of years later.

Lapland Mountain description
Linnaeus's impression of the mountains of Lapland taken from his Iter Lapponicum (Lapland Journal of 1732)

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I started an organisation called Art Responders that curates exhibitions with a social justice focus. I also make my own art, love to cook and travel frequently with my husband and 7-year-old son.

7th May 2019 – Meet The Team: Special Publications Manager Tue, 07 May 2019 12:56:00 +0000

This week we learn more about our Special Publications Manager, Leonie Berwick.

Leonie Berwick

What are the key parts to your role?

In a nutshell my job at the Society is to oversee the production and dissemination of our internal publications, amongst other things. This might be commissioning or writing pieces for PuLSe, our Fellows’ magazine, or being production editor for our other Fellows’ publication, The Linnean. I also put together all books that are produced in-house.

What do you like most about your job?

I love our collections and am a total nerd when it comes to history. I enjoy being able to explore our holdings, find out about their stories and get the information out there. Sometimes an innocuous looking item can have a fascinating backstory.

How did you end up in this job?

My background is in publishing, and when an opportunity came up at the Natural History Museum (in conjunction with the Linnean Society), which had always been one of my favourite places in London, I wanted to go for it. The role was to put together and produce Order out of Chaos, the culmination of a 25-year project that brought together information on the typification of Linnaeus’ botanical names for the first time. The book and the author, Charlie Jarvis, were awarded the IAPT’s prestigious Stafleu medal. From there I moved to the Linnean Society to work on other books and projects, including setting up the Society’s first education programme.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

My favourite animal has always been the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). When I was about 13 I read Virunga by Farley Mowat—a book about primatologist Dian Fossey—and it had a big impact on me. What I liked about it was that someone who did not start out as a naturalist or scientist managed to make a difference in both the conservation and our understanding of these powerful primates.

Gorilla gorilla

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

Flying Fish

It’s too hard to just choose one—we have so many, and ‘new’ ones seem to come to our attention all the time. I like the things you wouldn’t think we’d have, like a small piece of wrapping from a mummy. From our specimens I’ve always had a soft spot for the flying fish (Cheilopogon exsiliens), and I love the albums we hold of Albert Günther, who was a brilliant German reptile taxonomist and Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum in the late 1800s. The albums hold information on animals found all over the world—they are essentially amazing scrapbooks and it’s like looking into how someone’s mind worked over 120 years ago.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like going to the movies, museums and galleries. Also, walking and doing anything near the coast is always something I look forward to.

23rd April 2019 – Meet The Team: Honorary Archivist Tue, 23 Apr 2019 10:19:00 +0000 Gina Douglas

This week for Meet the Team, we speak to Gina Douglas FLS (honoris causa) who is the Hon Archivist and the Hon Editor for The Linnean.

What are the key parts to your role?

As the Hon Archivist, I am the “corporate memory” holder.

As the Hon Editor, I solicit content, bring together and edit submissions and book reviews for The Linnean. The Linnean is one of our Fellow's only publications, published twice a year.

What do you like most about your job?

I get to keep in touch with Linnean Society activities.

How did you end up in this job?

I served as Librarian & Archivist from 1982 to 2007 and Acting Exec sec. for 2008.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Linnaea borealis of course!

Drawing of Linnaea Borealis
Drawing of Linnaea Borealis

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

Unexpected rather than “interesting”: the shrapnel fragments that were found in the Library after wartime bombing.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

What spare time? Retirement is all “spare time” but baking for the Society evening meetings is one of many continuing activities that keep me busy…

9th April 2019 – Meet the Team: Education and Public Engagement Manager Tue, 09 Apr 2019 09:00:00 +0000

This week we learn more about the Education team as we speak to Joe Burton, our Education and Public Engagement Manager.


What are the key parts to your role?

I coordinate the Society’s educational activities and lead the development of new projects. I also manage the new public engagement space in Burlington House, known as the Discovery Room.

What do you like most about your job?

There is lots of freedom to create new activities, events and bigger projects for people of all ages and walks of life. Plus the remit of the Society is really wide, so there is so much content to play with!

How did you end up in this job?

I studied Biomedical Science at Sheffield University, and then did a Masters in Science Communication. I worked at a lot of science festivals (a lot!), spent some time in a couple of education projects in Uganda and Ghana, and then bagged a great job at the Royal Institution running fun science workshops. When that job came to an end, I was looking for a position where I could flex my creative muscles and this job came up!

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

© Wikimedia Commons

I love a good tardigrade. They are known as water bears, teeny organisms that waddle around, and are often found on lichens and mosses. They are tough cookies and can survive super-high and super-low temperatures and you can even fling them off into space and they will be okay. There is more than a thousand species of tardigrade so I will give give you the phylum instead: Tardigrada.

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

My favourite item in the Linnean Society right now is the portrait of Carl Linnaeus that is hanging in the meeting room. Last year we ran a competition with 9-11 year olds to create a new portrait for Linnaeus, while the original went away to be conserved. The selected portrait was made by Leo who was 10 years old and it is just amazing. You should come and see it before the old one comes back!

Leo with his family under his portrait of Linnaeus
Leo with his family under his portrait of Linnaeus

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a trustee and volunteer for a couple of educational and social projects. I go swimming a couple of times a week and I am part of a theatre-club so I try to get myself to a few amateur plays a month. Beyond that I am fairly social so I like to get out and explore the city and beyond with friends (pizza 🍕 is always a good too).

26th March 2019 – Meet the Team: Room Hire Manager and Membership Assistant Tue, 26 Mar 2019 11:16:35 +0000

This week on meet the team, we speak to our Room Hire Manager and Membership assistant, Tatiana Franco.

Tatiana Franco

What are the key parts to your role?

My job is actually divided into 2 very different roles - Room Hire and Memberships.

Room Hire:

  • Dealing with enquires regarding the rooms
  • Preparing rooms
  • Setting up AV equipment/ helping with technical difficulties
  • Catering


  • New Fellows first point of contact
  • Dealing with queries regarding the Fellowship
  • Informing new Fellows, Associates and Students of their acceptance into the Society
  • Sending out letters of acceptance and packs
  • Updating the database
  • Preparing the Ballot and Council Agendas for Fellowship Elections

What do you like most about your job?

Both roles have given me the opportunity to learn and meet lots of interesting people. Hearing all the positive comments from visitors and Fellows is always very rewarding.

How did you end up in this job?

After University, I worked in the film industry, which is not as glamorous as it sounds. I always wanted to work within the heritage sector, so when the opportunity arose, I couldn’t resist and applied for the role.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

This is a very difficult question for me because I love animals. If I have to pick just one it would have to be the cat (Felis catus). I am fascinated by these beautiful creatures.

Felis catus
Conrad Gesner ' Historiae animalium' 1617-21

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

Queen Victoria

For me it has to be the Roll and Charter. It’s incredible to think that so many famous names in history have signed the same book. The detail that went into some of the illustrated pages is incredible. Among my favourites is Queen Victoria.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Reading, dancing, and when I have the opportunity—travelling.

12th March 2019: Meet the Team – Head of Collections Tue, 12 Mar 2019 10:00:00 +0000

This week on meet the team, we speak to our Head of Collections, Dr Isabelle Charmantier.

Isabelle Charmantier

What are the key parts to your role?

Managing the Collections team, which includes the Librarian, Archivist, Conservator and Digital Assets Manager, as well as a team of volunteers. Our work is varied and is all about giving access to our wonderful collections while at the same time making sure that they are preserved for future generations. We deal with readers’ enquiries; catalogue the collections of books, archives and artefacts; put on displays in the Library; give tours to the public; look for funding projects; collaborate with other institutions; and many other things! It’s an incredibly varied role, with a few challenges and many rewards.

What do you like most about your job?

Being able to handle early modern material. It’s easy to forget that the manuscripts and books we take care of are old and precious! From time to time, it’s wonderful to stop the daily tasks to delve in the collections, look through our paintings and drawings of botany and zoology, admire the beautiful handwriting of an eighteenth-century notebook, and simply take the time to marvel at the treasures we hold.

How did you end up in this job?

I didn’t have a straightforward career path. After years working in Foyles bookshop, I undertook a history of science PhD in Sheffield, during which I studied a seventeenth-century manuscript on ornithology. This led to a post-doc at the University of Exeter on Linnaeus’s working technologies, which involved a lot of research on the Linnaean manuscripts at the Linnean Society. By the end of the post-doc, I did not want to stay in academia, but decided to retrain as an archivist. The Linnean Society was looking for someone to catalogue the Linnaean manuscripts; I was lucky to be hired to do that while retraining. After a spell in the Lake District as collections manager for the Freshwater Biological Association, I returned to the Linnean Society as Deputy Librarian, and became Head of Collections when the Librarian retired.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

That’s a tough one, as difficult as identifying a favourite book or song. There are too many amazing animals and plants to choose from! However, I do have a particular affinity with my namesake Graellsia isabellae, the stunning Spanish moon moth, a threatened species which can be found in France, my home country.

Spanish Moon Moth
© Wikimedia Commons (Bernard Dupont)

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

I love Linnaeus’ early manuscripts, the student notes he took when he was attending Uppsala University in his early 20s. There is something quite poignant about them. My favourite is probably the manuscript ‘Manuscripta medica’ (, with Linnaeus’ lecture notes, notes from library books, and delightful little drawings.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m happiest outside, going on a long walk in the mountains with my family. I also enjoy swimming, reading, singing in a choir, and playing the flute (although I don’t do that as often as I’d like).

8th March 2019: Joan Beauchamp Procter FLS Fri, 08 Mar 2019 12:03:00 +0000 Jean Beauchamp Procter
© The Linnean Society of London

One of the most brilliant naturalists in Great Britain

E.W. MacBride

This International Women’s Day we recognise one of our Fellows, Joan Beauchamp Procter. Born in London on the 5th August 1897 to Joseph Procter, a stockbroker, and Elizabeth Procter, an artist. Her grandfather William Brockbank was a lover of art and also an amateur botanist and geologist. Both Joan and her sister Chrystabel Prudence Goldsmith Procter (1894–1982) grew up in a family interested in both art and sciences.

We were both pushed into exactly the right cause by heavy misfortune… yet herpetology and horticulture were quite definitely what Joan and I were born to study.

Chrystabel Procter in a letter to the Linnean Society

Joan studied at St Pauls’ School for girls, intending to go on to the University of Cambridge. Unfortunately her chronic illness stopped her from pursuing her studies at Cambridge, although that didn’t stop her altogether. She was known to be passionately devoted to the study of animals from a young age. According to Chrystabel they kept at home lizards, snakes and even once a baby crocodile in their bath, even though their father disliked reptiles.

She preferred a large green Dalmatian lizard as a plaything instead of dolls.

E.W. MacBride

She became good friends with Dr G. A. Boulenger FRS, the distinguished authority on reptiles at the time, after visiting him numerous times at the British Museum to talk about specimens. In 1917 she started working at the museum and by 1920 was in charge of the reptile department.

On the 21st of June 1923 she was elected Fellow of the Linnean Society. 1923 was also the year she was appointed curator of reptiles at the Zoological Society of London to replace Mr Boulenger, Dr Boulenger's son, who was appointed Director of the new aquarium. Once appointed she really turned the reptile house around. Instantly recognising the old reptile house as a ‘pest-house’ and a constant stream of ‘disease’ and ‘invading vermin’. She persuaded the council to build a new reptile house, which is still in use today. At the time is was the ‘most novel installation for the accommodation of animals that has yet been made in any country’. This included the use of ‘vita glass’, a high tech concept at the time, which allowed natural ultraviolet light to penetrate through which the reptiles highly needed.

Plan of London Zoological Gardens
Plan of London Zoological Gardens © The Linnean Society of London

This project was truly Joan’s own.

She had the best possible architectural and technical advice and we all assisted her in every way we could. But from the beginning it was her house.

P. Chalmers on the building of the reptile house

Her hard work paid off and the reptile house, which opened in 1927 was a great success. Under these new conditions reptiles were more active, fed better and grew quicker. Also, unexpectedly creatures became more docile.

Notable instances are the Komodo dragons, which are as tame as dogs and even seem to show affection” “Some of these [large Pythons]…will allow their heads to be stroked and their mouths examined

P. Chalmers Mitchell on the temperament of the animals in the newly built reptile house

Joan Procter was known all over the world for her work at the reptile house and also for her published work. Most famous is her study on the east African tortoise Testudo liveridgei, now called Malacochersus tornieri. Her international recognition led her to receive an honorary doctorate D.Sc. degree from the University of Chicago.

It is important to remember that in all her achievements she was suffering from a chronic illness, which led to her premature death at the age of 34 from cancer. She, however, never let her illness define her and continued to issue orders while bed ridden.

As E.W. MacBride stated "Her success was that she really loved animals. She regarded them not as reflex machines but as her younger brethren."

By Leanne Melbourne, Events and Communications Manager


  • Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (October 1931 to May 1932). Obituary by E.W. MacBride pp183-185
  • Letter from the Linnean Society of London Archives: Proctor, Chrystabel P. G.; 1 letter, 15 Jul 1979
  • Centenary History of the Zoological Society of London by P. Chalmers Mitchell, 1929
  • The Zoological Society of London 1826-1876 and BEYOND, EDITED BY Professor Lord Zuckerman
26th February 2019: Meet the Team – Multimedia Content Producer Tue, 26 Feb 2019 10:00:00 +0000

Up next is Ross Ziegelmeier our Multimedia Content Producer.


What are the key parts to your role?

  • Create multimedia content relating to the societies activities and collections.
  • Collaborate with other biology related institutes in the production of digital content.
  • Through media production training, support professional working in the field of biology.

What do you like most about your job?

  • Being able to combine my two greatest passions, being the natural world and media production.
  • Meeting interesting people working on some of the most cutting edge science in the field of biology
  • Inspiring the next generation of scientists.

How did you end up in this job?

I studied Biology at The University of Nottingham, where I spent most of my time doing field work. Whenever I was out in the field I had my camera around my neck and photographed everything. I was also involved in student radio, television and many visual arts societies. These skills assisted me greatly in landing my first job in science communication. Over the years I have specialised into my current role where I now talk about science through multimedia production.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Animal: Mohol Bushbaby (Galago moholi)

Bush baby Illustration Zoology of South Africa Andrew Smith
Illustrations of the Zoology of S Africa by Andrew Smith © The Linnean Society of London

Plant: Japanese Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta)

Tricyrtis hirta
© Juni (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

George Robert Gray, The Genera of Birds...Illustrated by David William Mitchell. Incredible images.

Megaspilus gould Genera of Birds G R Gray © BHL
© Biodiversity Heritage Library

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Read, Draw, and listen to music (sometimes all at the same time, don’t ask how).

Images: Tricyrtis hirta © Juni (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

22 February 2019: The Carpological Collection on Display Fri, 22 Feb 2019 00:00:00 +0000

This year at the Linnean Society, a little-known biological collection is finally getting the attention it deserves.

It is well known that our founder James Edward Smith, who purchased the Linnaean Collections in 1784, was a keen botanist, and kept his own herbarium. Smith's herbarium is far less well known than Linnaeus's yet holds important specimens, many of which are types, from significant naturalists of the time including Carl Linnaeus the Younger (son of Carl Linnaeus), Robert Brown, Joseph Banks, John Ellis and Joseph Dalton Hooker, amongst others. Alongside his herbarium, Smith kept a carpological collection, which contained the parts of a plant that could not easily be pressed on a herbarium sheet: seeds, bark, gum, fruits (such as cones), and leaves.

Specimens of economic importance case

The collection, which contains approximately 800 items, has always been on the margins of the other collections at the Society. It narrowly avoided being sold off, when other specimen collections owned by the Society were auctioned in 1863. A look in the Council and Meetings Minute books reveals that, since then, the matter of what to do with it has come up again and again. For many years, Librarian Gina Douglas and Conservator Janet Ashdown, both quite taken with this rich and idiosyncratic collection, wished to find ways to conserve it and make it better known. Thanks to a one-year Arts Council PRISM grant (Preservation of the Industrial and Scientific Material), awarded in March 2018, both are finally getting closer to the goal. The PRISM grant has allowed us to buy better conservation grade boxes in which to rehouse each item, and to clean the wrappers that enclose them. The grant has also enabled the collection to be stored with the Smith herbarium in purpose-built shelves. A display in the Library showcases some of the items in their new boxes, and highlights the uniqueness of the wrappers and the economic importance of many items they contain.


What makes the carpological collection unique is that most of the items are still enclosed in their original wrappers, with the name of the specimen they hold recorded in late 18th century handwritten script. The wrappers are often still folded in their original inventive and careful ways, securely fastened to prevent tiny seeds from escaping. The name of the species is written on the wrapper, and it is sometimes possible to identify the handwriting of the collector.

Some collectors grabbed any paper they had to hand to enclose the specimens: the collection includes several newspapers of the day (The True Briton, The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser), advertisements for a ‘Doctor Henry’ (in the profession for 20 years) and for tea, letter drafts, pages ripped out of books, and small pharmaceutical boxes (‘Magnesia Lozenges for Heartburn’). These improvised wrappers are a treasure trove for social historians, such as Dr Maria Zytaruk, of the Department of English at the University of Calgary, Canada, whose research concentrates on seed exchange and seed collections. Dr Zytaruk has already contributed a podcast about the carpological collection on the Linnean Society’s channel and will give a Lunchtime Lecture on the subject on 6 March 2019.


Other collectors made their wrappers themselves, using good-quality paper, and inscribing the details of the specimens and site from which they were collected on the packet. Probably the most attractive packets are those sent from Norfolk Island, with the rough sketches of the plants from which the seeds were collected carefully drawn in ink. These were probably sent to James Edward Smith from Philip Gidley King, the Governor of New South Wales to which Norfolk Island was attached, via Aylmer Rourke Lambert FLS. They include ‘Large White Vine’, ‘Cabbage Palm’, ‘Shrub’, ‘Common Blue Vine’, and ‘Flax plant’.


The carpological collection specimens come from all across the globe, and were in many cases collected with new economic and medical uses in mind. King’s specimen of flax is a good example: the presence of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) on Norfolk Island led the British to seek an alternative source of fibre, although the plan to develop a flax industry ultimately failed. The display shows other examples of exotic plants whose economic, medical or culinary uses were only just beginning to be discovered and exploited. This includes a specimen of eucalyptus from Dr John White, sent to Smith in 1795, who called it New Holland Mahogany in his A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland; cochineal, an insect from the Americas from which the natural dye carmine is derived, sent by the linen merchant John Ellis and thread spun of fibres of Bromelia lagenaria, used for nets in South America, sent by John Theodore Koster, a sugar merchant based in Portugal.


While it is possible to identify a few of the collectors, the provenance of most items remains a mystery, with the date, place and author of collection unknown. A packet full of ‘Yellow bark’, or Cinchona, from which quinine is extracted, comes with a note describing its medical uses, but its author and date are unknown. The collector of the ‘Frankincense gum’, wrapped in The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser for Saturday 30 December 1775 also remains unknown, as does the collector of ‘Paraguay Tea (…) called by the Indian Maty’. Indeed, even some of the specimens remain unidentified.


The items’ conservation is just the first step in the revival of the carpological collection. With the help of honorary botany curator Dr Mark Spencer, we are now hoping to find new funding so that the collection can be properly catalogued, researched and its links to the Smith herbarium reassessed.

arts council grant logo

By Isabelle Charmantier, Head of Collections

Learn more about the Carpological Collection:

- Listen to Dr Maria Zytaurk's podcast Seed Packets Secrets.

- Attend Dr Maria Zytaruk's Lunchtime Lecture on The History of Seed Exchange on Wednesday 6 March, 12:30–1pm.

- Read Dr Maria Zytaruk's forthcoming paper, which will feature some of these packets: "'Take Care Some Seeds in the Letter': Material and Textual Practices of Seed Exchange in the Long Eighteenth Century," Lumen (vol. 38, 2019).

- Come and see the display in the Library Reading Room, opened Monday–Friday 10am–5pm.

12th February 2019: Meet the Team – Education Outreach Assistant Tue, 12 Feb 2019 10:00:00 +0000

This week we chat to Zia Forrai (they, them) our Educational Outreach Assistant.


What are the key parts to your role?

Going into schools and encouraging young people to make creative work exploring biological ideas.

What do you like most about your job?

I love being able to inspire people who might not ordinarily think science is for them. I also love that I have the opportunity to learn fascinating things while I work.

How did you end up in this job?

Since my Master’s, I’ve been focused on the philosophies of science, biology, technology, and consciousness, and these have played largely in my creative work. I am also dedicated to teaching and education, and spent my 2 years prior to starting at the Linnean Society working in public engagement at a medical museum that explores the influences and intersections in science of art, religion, politics, culture, and philosophy.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

It switches up often. Currently, it’s a toss-up between: Elysia chloratica, a seaslug capable of photosynthesis through endosymbiosis, utilising the chloroplasts of algae, or the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid. I’m keen on cephalopods for a variety of reasons, but this one is a recent fav. As part of its life-cycle, it gets infected with a bioluminescent bacterium that helps it hunt at night (which looks pretty brilliant too).

Images printing

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

Coat of Arms

The shield of the Society emblem has me under its sway. On the shield itself, the Black at the base represents the Kingdom of Minerals, on the top, the Red represents the Kingdom of Animals, and the Green the Kingdom of Plants.

The Egg (ovum) represents the origin of life (/existence).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Find somewhere soft, warm, and occluded, so I can sleep through the winter, with minimised fear of predation.

29th January 2019: Meet the Team – Archivist Tue, 29 Jan 2019 10:00:00 +0000

This week we get to know our Archivist, Vida Milovanovic


What are the key parts to your role?

As the Society’s Archivist I look after the manuscript collections. This involves:

  • Managing collections-acquisition, arrangement, and storage of material
  • Cataloguing archival material
  • Handling enquiries about our collections
  • Facilitating research visits and supervising readers
  • Promoting the collections
  • Giving tours to visitor groups

What do you like most about your job?

The collections here at the Linnean Society are the highlight and being able to work with them on a daily basis is fascinating. I’ve learned so much about natural history since starting here.

How did you end up in this job?

I discovered archives through a local history assignment during my undergraduate History degree and really enjoyed working with primary source material. Following the completion of my undergraduate degree, I studied for an MA in Archives and Records Management and have worked in archives ever since. I applied for a job at the Society because I have an interest in natural history and the opportunity of such a varied role appealed to me.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Turritopsis dohrnii
Turritopsis dohrnii © Shutterstock

I love the unique and fascinating kingdom of fungi. I really enjoy going out in woods to look for fruiting bodies.

I also find Turritopsis dohrni, the biologically immortal jellyfish, pretty impressive!

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

I really like the breadth of the botanical and zoological art held in the Linnean Society and I struggle to pick one favourite but, “Coloured drawings of some English fungi” (MS/29a) by Emilia Noel (1868-1950) stand out for me.

Emilia Noel fungi
Coloured drawings of some English fungi by Emilia Noel

The original sketched on the Amazon by Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) (MS/140b) are a very close second – he was a fantastic draughtsman!

What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy photography, reading, and visiting museums & galleries, in my spare time. I’m also very passionate about good food and travel.

15th January 2019: Meet the Team – Events and Communications Tue, 15 Jan 2019 10:00:00 +0000

For the next couple of months we will be releasing profiles on Linnean Society staff members. Get to know us a bit more and find out what we do at the Society. First up is our Events and Communications Manager Leanne Melbourne.

Leanne Melbourne

What are the key parts to your role?

  • Organising logistics for upcoming events
  • Finding new speakers for our events programme
  • Planning new events and different ways for the Society to engage with the wider public
  • Using social media to promote our events and collections
  • On event days, setting up and running events.

What do you like most about your job?

My favourite part is listening to all the fascinating research about natural history and having a part to play in getting the public to hear it too.

How did you end up in this job?

I did a PhD on the effect of climate change on coralline algae at the University of Bristol. Within the PhD there were many different outreach activities and communication opportunities to get involved with. I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in these activities, which led to my passion for science communication. Once I finished the PhD I decided to apply for science communication roles and ended up here at the Society.

What is your favourite species of animal or plant?

Well obviously I do love coralline algae and seaweeds in general but other wise Glaucus atlanticus are pretty cool. They are a type of carnivorous sea slug (nudibranch) that eats things like the Portuguese man o’ war. The really cool part is that they store the poison from these animals in their extremities to use as a defence mechanism against predators.

Glaucus Atlanticus
Glaucus atlanticus © Sylke Rohrlach

What is the most interesting item to you in the Linnean Society collections?

Through my studies i have become fascinated by seaweeds. The Society has this book by John Stackhouse, Nereis Britannica (1795-1801), that has some stunning illustrations of Fuci from around the UK. Our copy has a lot of water damage though.

Stackhouse plate
John Stackhouse, Nereis Britannica

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like playing netball, which I mainly do in the week. On the weekend I like to go to museums, exhibitions and galleries. Try and get ideas for our own events.

1st January 2019: ​Seven Temptations! Linnaeus and Love in the New Year Tue, 01 Jan 2019 10:00:00 +0000 small printed almanac as a diary
Almanach På Åhretefter Iesu Christi nåderika Födelse 1735

Happy New Year! Whilst many of us spend the first few days of a new year trying to heave ourselves off the sofa, in 1735 Carl Linnaeus used this time to conduct an efficient courtship of his wife-to-be. He recorded the events in the small almanac that he used as a diary.

This velvet-covered volume, entitled Almanach På Åhretefter Iesu Christi nåderika Födelse 1735 (‘Almanac for the year of Jesus Christ’s gracious birth 1735’), is kept in the Linnaean Manuscripts collection. On the blank interleaved pages of the almanac, Linnaeus recorded the days’ events. This is one of the few genuine autobiographies we have from Linnaeus – all the others he carefully crafted and reworked with a view to publishing them. The 1735 almanac, by contrast, is delightfully unaffected and candid.

In the early days of the year, 27-year-old Linnaeus faithfully recorded the courting and wooing of his future wife, Sara Elisabeth (Sara Lisa) Moraea, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Falun’s town physician, Dr Johan Moraeus. The little diary gives a tantalising insight into a more personal side of Linnaeus – sadly we will probably never know what the ‘seven temptations’ he experienced on 27 January were.

Linnaeus in Lapland costume
Linnaeus in his Lapland Costume

As described by Wilfrid Blunt, on 2 January he waited on her, dressed to kill in his famous Lapland costume, and the following day he took advantage of the absence of her parents to call again. Other visits followed, besides meetings at the houses of mutual friends. On 16 January, he spent the whole day with her, proposed and was accepted.”*

[*Blunt, W., The Compleat Naturalist. A Life of Linnaeus (London, 2001), p. 80.]

At first Sara Lisa’s parents were not pleased with the idea of her marrying a medical man, hoping that she would make a better match. Eventually, however, they agreed, stipulating that the marriage should not take place for three years, and that Linnaeus should still undertake his planned journey to the Continent.

Linnaeus left Falun on 20 February 1735, and journeyed south, before sailing for the Continent in April, where he spent the next three years. He came back to Sweden in June 1738, and became formally engaged to Sara Lisa. They were married a year later, in June 1739.

Here are the entries from Linnaeus’ diary concerning his courtship, translated from Swedish by Nathaniel Wallich in 1848:


O! Ens entium miserere mei! (O! God have pity on me!)

1. Christmas dinner with alderman Dan. Moraeus.

2. called on Sara Lisa in a Lapland dress.

3. the same, absentibus parentibus (in the absence of parents).

10. called on S. L. M. and had a little fun.

13. called on S. L. M., and at Kougagården, and on my assessor Moraeus.

15. Christmas party at the provost’s at Fahlun with S. L. M.

16. dinner at secretary Neuman’s.

N.B. a day of immortal commemoration, of final settling with S. L. M.

19. Lars Petter dined at a party at engineer Trygg’s. Betted two tankards of rhenish wine that there will be a christening in 4 years.

20. wrote to J. Moraeus, S. S. about S. L. M. Explicitly solicited (her hand).

21. wrote to S. L. M.

22. called on [S. L. M.] gave annulum (a ring).

23. reciprocation by mother-in-law.

27. received from J. Mor response concerning 3 [years] secundum abitum (second departure). Seven temptations!

29. called on S. L. M. concluded Floram Dalekarlicam (Flora of the Dalecarlia province).


8. in the evening (with) S. L. M.

9. in the afternoon at a frolic at Morbygden.

10. in the evening (with) S. L. M.

11. with S. L. M. until X o’clock in the evening.

18. took leave of father-in-law.

19. took leave of S. L. M., who wrote the oath.

By Dorothy Fouracre, Librarian (adapted from an earlier blog post by Isabelle Charmantier, Head of Collections)