The Linnean Society https://www.linnean.org/ en-GB Tue, 31 Oct 2017 11:34:00 +0000 Tue, 31 Oct 2017 12:14:21 +0000 31st October 2017: Housekeeping Week https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/10/31/31st-october-2017-housekeeping-week Tue, 31 Oct 2017 11:34:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/10/31/31st-october-2017-housekeeping-week Housekeeping week

Over the course of two weeks in October, the Library was closed to readers to enable staff to make more space for incoming books. The process was initiated by moving a section of books from the upper gallery to our East basement storage. In a domino effect, seven major sections of the Library were moved around and re-shelved in more capacious areas, with space left on each shelf for growth. At the same time, the books and the shelves were cleaned of their Piccadilly grime. This could not have been undertaken without the enthusiastic help from Linnean Society staff and volunteers, with new volunteers recruited on the promise of tea and cake. 

These successful two weeks have enabled staff to start shelving books often generously donated by our Fellows, and which had been waiting in boxes or on cradles for lack of space on the shelves. A further closure of the Library is planned for the New Year to continue the process.

At the same time, archivist Liz McGow catalogued around 90 manuscripts, ahead of the launch of the archives catalogue Calm View at the end of the year. 

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27th October 2017: Birds' Eggs: A Display on the History of Egg Collecting https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/10/27/26-october-2017-new-library-display-birds-eggs Fri, 27 Oct 2017 16:13:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/10/27/26-october-2017-new-library-display-birds-eggs

The Library has a new display, which coincided with Professor Tim Birkhead's talk last Thursday, The Most Perfect Thing: a Birds' Egg. The display looks at the history of egg collecting has been represented through our manuscripts and book collection.

Collecting birds’ eggs began in the 1600s when scholars and naturalists began to acquire natural history objects and create cabinets of curiosities. The Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605) produced voluminous tomes on all aspects of natural history, and owned many curiosities in his museum, which opened posthumously in 1617. His collection contained an ostrich egg, amazing for its sheer size, but also several monstrously large and deformed hen’s eggs. Aldrovandi's chapter on hens includes a substantial section on their reproductive system and the mechanisms that lead to the creation of an egg.    

Remarks on the First Order of Aquatic Birds, by William Markwick
Remarks on the First Order of Aquatic Birds, by William Markwick

Naturalists and scholars have been studying, collecting, drawing, and dissecting eggs for centuries. They have been attempting to answer questions such as: How are eggs made within the female reproductive system? Why do they differ in shape and colour? How is the egg shell formed and when?

Birds’ eggs were collected—sometimes far too assiduously—for their shape, their spectacular colours, or their rarity. Collections were then organised according to colour, size, shape or texture. 

In his manuscript, 'Remarks on the First Order of Aquatic Birds' (1800), William Markwick (1739–1813), a naturalist from Sussex, painted the birds but rarely their eggs. Yet he made an exception for the Woodcock, because, as he noted on the next page: ‘As the eggs of this Bird are rare in our Country, [I] have figured one which was presented to me by a friend.’

Guillemot eggs, such as the ones depicted in Henry Seebohm's A History of British Birds, with Coloured Illustrations of Their Eggs (1883–1885), have long fascinated and intrigued naturalists and biologists, due to their pointed shape and their vibrant and varied colours.


British Birds' Eggs and Nests, Popularly Described, by J C Atkinson (1862)
British Birds' Eggs and Nests, Popularly Described, by J C Atkinson (1862)

Egg collecting is now forbidden, but used to be part a young naturalist's training. John Christopher Atkinson wrote British Birds' Eggs and Nests, Popularly Described in 1862, so ‘that it may be interesting and useful to young egg-collectors’. In his introductory chapter, he defended himself against accusations of ‘cruelty’ from ‘some of his conscientious friends’: ‘If I thought there was any real (…) connection between a love of egg-hunting (…) and cruelty, I would not say another word for it or about it. But I am sure that the real lover of birds and their nests and eggs is not the boy who is chargeable with those torn and ruined nests (…) which grieve one as he walks along the lanes and hedge sides.’


Linnaeus's Coat of Arms
Linnaeus's Coat of Arms

The egg is central to the understanding of life. William Harvey (1578–1657) famously asserted that everything comes from an egg (ex ovo omnia). Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) readily adopted this, annotating a copy of Harvey's work. In an early botanical manuscript, Linnaeus drew an anatomised egg, and wrote that every egg must be impregnated to allow procreation—be it the seed of a plant or the egg of an animal. When in 1761 Linnaeus was ennobled and designed his own coat of arms, he placed an egg at the center of the escutcheon, whose three colours symbolised the three kingdoms of nature. Linnaeus's coat of arms was later integrated in the Linnean Society's coat of arms. 

The display ends with a reflection regarding the impact of man on birds and their eggs. It evokes the over-hunting and over-collecting that led to the extinction of the Great Auk in 1844, and the harmful effect of pesticides (notably DDT) on birds' eggs like the Peregrine's.

Come and see the display!

The Library is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5 pm, and accessible to all. It is recommended to contact us before your visit, as the Library is sometimes closed for functions.

Isabelle Charmantier, Deputy Librarian

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26th September 2017: Smiley Faced Spiders https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/09/26/26th-september-2017-discovery-bernie-sanders-spider Mon, 25 Sep 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/09/26/26th-september-2017-discovery-bernie-sanders-spider

A scientist at the University of Vermont and four of his undergraduate students have discovered 15 new species of “smiley-faced” spiders—and named them after, among others, David Attenborough, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

This was an undergraduate research project. In naming these spiders, the students and I wanted to honour people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change—leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world.

Ingi Agnarsson, Spider expert and Professor of Biology at UVM who led the new study.
Lily Sargeant, Ben Chomitz and Professor Ingi Agnarsson
Lily Sargeant, Ben Chomitz and Professor Ingi Agnarsson © Joshua Brown, University of Dermont

Until now, the beautiful yellow “smiley-faced spiders” in the genus Spintharus—named for a smiley face pattern on their abdomens—has been thought to have one widespread species “from northern North America down to northern Brazil,” Agnarsson says.

However, when a research team from the Caribbean Biogeography Project (CarBio)—spearheaded by Agnarsson and Greta Binford at Lewis & Clark College—examined spiders from Jamaica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, Florida, South Carolina, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Colombia—they discovered that one widespread species was actually many endemic species. Using CarBio genetic work, and the Vermont students’ painstaking photography and lab work, the team—with support from the National Science Foundation—was able to identify and formally describe fifteen new species. “And if we keep looking, we’re sure there are more,” Agnarsson said.


Conservation concerns

The Caribbean region has long been known to scientists as a major global hotspot for biological diversity. The leading spider expert on the Spintharus genus in earlier decades, Herbert W Levi (1921–2014), had concluded that differences he observed in these spiders across a wide swath of geography represented variation within one species. But newer molecular techniques deployed by the project’s leaders, Agnarsson and Binford, show otherwise. “These are cryptic species,” Agnarsson says. “As Dr Levi’s work clearly showed, they are hard to tell apart by looking at them.” But the DNA data are clear: these spiders have not been interbreeding—exchanging genes—for millions of years.

Spiranthus davidattenboroughi © Agnarsson Lab
Spiranthus davidattenboroughi © Agnarsson Lab
Spintharus davidbowiei © Agnarsson Lab
Spintharus davidbowiei © Agnarsson Lab

Spintharus leonardodicaprioi © Agnarsson Lab
Spintharus leonardodicaprioi © Agnarsson Lab
Spintharus.berniesandersi © Agnarsson Lab
Spintharus.berniesandersi © Agnarsson Lab

The study was published September 26 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. [LINK TO 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx056]

Media contact: Joshua BrownUniversity of Vermont

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22nd September 2017: Linnaeus – on the run next week! https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/09/22/22nd-september-2017-linnaeus-on-the-run-next-week Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:08:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/09/22/22nd-september-2017-linnaeus-on-the-run-next-week Linnaeus on the run

Just one week now until our drama workshop, Linnaeus - Naming the World's Plants tours primary schools in Exeter and Plymouth. The workshop is part of a research project, funded by the Linnean Society, investigating the efficacy of drama as a pedagogical tool in science education. We are lucky to have an actor for the character of Linnaeus who is both a graduate biologist and a primary school teacher. Ben Jewell has a broad range of experience of educational and historical theatre, including this clip as John Benjamin Dancer for the BBC.

Six primary school Year 6 classes will get to meet Linnaeus, who arrives at their school on the run from Hamburg, where he has angered the city officials by revealing the city’s seven-headed hydra beast as a fake! Linnaeus will recruit the pupils as his apostles, putting them to the test with an explorer game, a classification task using live mosses, ferns and flowering plants. The students will also have the opportunity to create their own binomial plant names, using Linnaeus’s Latin dictionaries. The image shows Linnaeus’s trunk, which he carries from school to school.

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24th August 2017: Science & Art Collide in North West London https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/24/24th-august-2017-science-art-collide-in-north-west-london Thu, 24 Aug 2017 16:12:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/24/24th-august-2017-science-art-collide-in-north-west-london Graffiti

BioMedia Meltdown is back! The Linnean Society of London is once again teaming up with John Lyon’s Charity to deliver a creative science competition like no other.

From September the Linnean Learning team will be delivering free hands-on workshops around your borough. Young people will enjoy one of two fun-filled sessions. Take social media by storm designing and sharing an infographic on biodiversity, or channel your inner Banksy by creating street art that shows the importance of pollinators. All workshop creations can be entered into the competition. There are lots of great prizes to be won, such as Keeper for a Day at ZSL London Zoo.


The BioMedia Meltdown Competition is helping to reverse the decline in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) uptake in UK schools. Studies have found that engagement with STEM decreases dramatically during secondary school, which has led to a severe shortage in STEM skills across the UK. Our competition enthuses and inspires young people about biology, encouraging them to get creative in the name of science.

BMM ipads

If you live or know somebody living in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Kensington & Chelsea and the Cities of London and Westminster, please pass on the competition details. 

We are also recruiting volunteer judges, ideally artists with knowledge on ecosystems and/or evolution (early February) and volunteers to speak to children about career opportunities in the arts and sciences (celebration event on 22 March 2018).  


Elisa Jones, Education Project Officer, 020 7434 4479 Ext 226

Twitter: @linneanlearning #BioMediaMeltdown

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17th August: Adopt an 'Ortus Sanitatis' https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/17/26th-july-adopt-our-ortus-sanitatis Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:31:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/17/26th-july-adopt-our-ortus-sanitatis AdoptLinn
Ortus Sanitatis, 1491

The Library of the Linnean Society wants to conserve two of its oldest books, from the library of Carl Linnaeus. The two books are two different editions of the first natural history encyclopaedia, the Ortus (or Hortus) Sanitatis, or Garden of Health. The Ortus Sanitatis was first published by Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz, Germany in 1485. Linnaeus owned the second edition (1491) as well as the fourth edition (1499), published in Strasbourg by J. Prüss.

Written at the end of the Middle Ages, the Ortus Sanitatis is a wonderful window into an age when it was believed that the natural world had been created by God to be of use to humanity and that animals and plants were there to provide cures for diseases. The Ortus Sanitatis describes species in the natural world, from plants, to animals and minerals along with their medicinal uses and modes of preparation. It was also a world filled with wonder and belief in extraordinary creatures. Mythical creatures are therefore included, and the pages are filled with creatures such as the phoenix, dragon, mermaid and other monsters.

Mermaid

The work includes tracts on medicinal plants, animals, birds, fish; mining and gemstones; and a work on the analysis of urine. This last tract is illustrated by a woodcut showing medical men examining phials of urine, in a shop. Two children seem to be fighting in the foreground, perhaps afflicted by the choleric disposition that the physician is trying to diagnose.

The 1491 edition is particularly impressive, being one of the bulkiest books in the Library of Carl Linnaeus. The charm of this wonderful book rests in its woodcut illustrations. Many of the plants, while delightfully stylized, are easily recognizable, helped by the rudimentary colouring that was added by hand. There are numerous annotations throughout, in various hands. The title page (see above) indicates the numerous readers to which this book belonged, before coming into the hands of Linnaeus and, in 1784, of James Edward Smith and ultimately the Linnean Society. 


The 1499 copy is of particular Swedish interest: one entry at the end of the book is dated 1519 and gives the price given for it. In addition, an old Swedish print pasted on the inside of the cover indicates that the binding was done in Sweden. A name scribbled on the third page indicates that it once belonged to Olaus Johannes Holus [?].

Conservation of these two books is essential if they are to remain in use. Once damaged, such heavy volumes, when handled, soon deteriorate and access will become more restricted.

Ortus Sanitatis

In both books, the front boards are detached, exposing the first several pages to unnecessary wear and at risk of becoming adrift from the sewing stations. The missing spines has resulted in damage to the sewing cords and there is a danger that the rear boards will also detach. Some pages are torn and the paper has become fragile and prone to loss.

The aim of conservation will be to make the books safe to handle while still retaining their original features and any historic evidence. The boards will be re-attached and the sewing supports strengthened. The spines will be recovered and any fragile or torn pages repaired. A new box will be made for each book.

You can help us conserve these two beautiful books by adopting them through our AdoptLINN scheme. Due to the high level of expertise and intervention required, each book is within the AdoptLINN Treasures category: for £1,500, you can adopt one of the Ortus Sanitatis. The benefits include:

  • Your name will be permanently associated with the book you are adopting on the Online Library Catalogue.
  • You will receive a certificate with details of your item.
  • Your donation will be acknowledged on our website and proceedings.
  • A conservation demonstration by our Conservator for you and up to four guests.
  • Once conserved, your item will be displayed with an acknowledgement of your contribution.

Please contact the Library team if you are interested.

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16th August 2017: Colours of Burlington House – A Chronicle https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/16/16th-august-2017-colours-of-burlington-house-a-chronicle Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:45:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/16/16th-august-2017-colours-of-burlington-house-a-chronicle RHS Display

Last Friday 11 August, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Astronomical Society, The Geological Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Linnean Society partnered in the celebration of the second Burlington House Courtyard Summer Late. 

After a successful kick-start in 2016, the six organisations decided to join forces once again under the common theme of colour. It proved a unique opportunity to meander around the Courtyard discovering the activities each Society had to offer. 

The Linnean Society had the pleasure of having Paul Henderson FLS who gave a short lecture on the use of colour by the influential James Sowerby. The talk was complemented by an exhibition on the development of colours in natural history books from the 16th to the 20th centuries. 

From unevenly hand-painted editions of 16th century herbals to printed colour nomenclatures of the 20th century, the display traces the standardisation of colours used by naturalists and illustrators, which revolutionised natural history works in the late 18th and early 19th century. One such work was John Sibthrop’s Flora Graeca (1806–1840), illustrated by the botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer, and engraved by James Sowerby.

Paul Henderson
Chromatometer

Sowerby devised a method for obtaining a scale of colours with the only assistance of a triangular prism and daylight. The 'chromatometer' was his attempt to represent colours for natural history Illustration. Visitors were able to test it themselves to find the colours of the spectrum, as Sowerby explained in his book A New Elucidation of Colours (1809), also on display.

Making paints

Members of the public particularly enjoyed making badges with images derived from natural history books in our collections. Dr John David FLS, from the Royal Horticultural Society, brought the latest RHS colour charts and discussed colour nomenclatures and their uses in plant identification.

To conclude, visitors were able to express their creativity by making their own ‘do it yourself’ paints using natural ingredients while learning the chemistry behind the process. 

The Library exhibit, as well as Sowerby’s chromatometer, will be on display until Monday 11 September. Members of the public are welcome to drop in, but please be aware that the Library is sometimes closed for functions. Contact the Library for more details (+44 (0)20 7434 4479 EXT 223). Opening hours: Monday–Friday, 10am–5pm  


Alicia Fernandez, Events and Communications Manager & Isabelle Charmantier, Deputy Collections Manager / Librarian

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16th August 2017: University of Stirling team discovers new plant in Shetland https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/16/16th-august-2017-university-of-stirling-team-discovers-new-plant-in-shetland Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:40:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/16/16th-august-2017-university-of-stirling-team-discovers-new-plant-in-shetland

Scientists at the University of Stirling have discovered a new type of plant growing in Shetland—with its evolution only having occurred in the last 200 years.

Shetland Monkeyflower

The new plant is a descendant of a non-native species, the yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), which colonised the United Kingdom in Victorian times. It has evolved through the doubling of the number of chromosomes, known as genome duplication or polyploidy. The plant, referred to as ‘Shetland’s monkeyflower’, produces yellow flowers with small red spots. It is larger than the typical monkeyflower and its flowers are more open.

Researchers say the finding is significant as it shows that a major evolutionary step can occur in non-native species over a short period of time, rather than over thousands of years.  

Evolution is often thought to be a slow process taking thousands or millions of years. Yet we show that a major evolutionary step can occur in a couple hundred years.

Associate Professor Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin

A team from Stirling’s Biological and Environmental Sciences, working with Dr James Higgins at the University of Leicester, carried out tests after a 'chance encounter' with the plant while conducting fieldwork near Quarff, Shetland. 

Led by postdoctoral researcher Dr Violeta Simon-Porcar, they measured the plant’s genome size and surveyed 30 populations of monkeyflowers from Shetland and across the United Kingdom. The plants were then grown under controlled conditions and their floral and vegetative characteristics were measured to compare the effect of genome duplication in morphology and flowering time. The team also conducted genetic analyses to investigate the relationship between the new polyploid plant and other populations in the Shetland Isles.


Genome duplication is common in the evolutionary history of flowering plants. Many crops—such as potatoes, tobacco and coffee —are polyploids. However, it is rare to witness the phenomenon in recent history. While genome duplication seems to be particularly common in hybrids between different species, the new plant has doubled its genome without hybridisation and has the same species as both its father and mother.

The Stirling team say that young polyploids, such as the new plant, provide an opportunity to investigate the early stages of an important evolutionary process. 

The fact that the new polyploid involves a non-native plant is poignant, given the fact that human activities are transporting all sorts of animal and plant species well beyond their native habitats. This raises the possibility that non-native species may increasingly participate in major biological processes, including the formation of new types pf plants and animals.

We found that genome duplication has immediate effects on the morphology and life strategy of this plant. Plants with double the DNA in their cells produce larger flowers, larger leaves, thicker stems, but they also take longer to flower.

Although these type of changes are predicted by theory, demonstrating them is complicated as in older polyploids the parental species may be missing or may have evolved since the separation of the polyploid and non-polyploid lineages.

Associate Professor Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin

The paper, Recent autopolyploidisation in a wild population of Mimulus guttatus (Phrymaceae), has been published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. Dr Simon-Porcar was funded through a postdoctoral fellowship from Plant Fellows.

Greg Christison, Communications Officer, University of Stirling. 

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1st August 2017: Remembering E E Riseley https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/01/1st-august-2017-remembering-e-e-riseley Tue, 01 Aug 2017 09:00:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/08/01/1st-august-2017-remembering-e-e-riseley

The Librarian of the Linnean Society, E E Riseley, was killed 100 years ago today, fighting in World War I. To commemorate his death, a display has been produced about his life in the Reading Room which everyone is welcome to come and visit.

Rifleman S/21693, 3rd Batallion, Rifle Brigade
Rifleman S/21693, 3rd Batallion, Rifle Brigade

Edwin Ephraim Riseley was born on the 15 February 1889 in Abbots Ripton, Huntingdonshire, to Ephraim Riseley and Emily Elizabeth Murkett.

After leaving school at the age of 15, Riseley began work as the Library Clerk to the Zoological Society, where he gained an introduction to librarianship and zoological material. In the spring of 1914, the Assistant to the Librarian at the Linnean Society, Mr W H T Tams, resigned from his post and the role was offered to Riseley, who had previously applied for the position. He started on a salary of £100, working 10am-6pm on weekdays, 10am-1pm on Saturdays and on meeting nights.

Ref: B Vol. V, p. 224
Ref: B Vol. V, p. 224

At the outbreak of World War I, the Librarian, German-born August Wilhelm Kappel, had been declared an enemy alien by the police and the Council of the Linnean Society felt forced to dismiss him. Kappel died on Christmas eve the following year.

Ref: CM/9 – 15 Oct 1914
Ref: CM/9 – 15 Oct 1914

Riseley was promoted to the role of Librarian, officially from the 1 January 1915, on an increased salary of £125 per annum. He thrived in his new role and spent the next two years making improvements to the library.

In January 1916, the Military Service Act introduced conscription and in May, the Council decided to take preliminary steps to find help in the library in the event of Riseley being called up to fight. This foresight was sensible as not long afterwards Riseley was indeed summoned for duty by the Army and on the 8 December he enlisted in the 9th Battalion, Rifle Brigade.

Riseley undertook training on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. In his absence, the Council appointed a temporary librarian but elected to still pay Riseley £45 of his salary whilst on active duty. On the 29 June 1916 whilst still based in Kent, he writes to the Officers of the Council to thank them for continuing to pay his salary whilst he is away fighting. He also comments that: 

To see the battleplanes here every day and the firing that goes on, one would think it impossible for any more raids to take place in London.

E E Riseley
Ref: B Vol. VI, p. 69
Ref: B Vol. VI, p. 69

He embarked for France on the 15 June 1917 and was killed less than a month later, by a shell on the 1 August.

His death was reported at a Council meeting on the 18 October 1917, where it was proposed that a memorial plaque should be placed in the library in commemoration. 

Ref: CM/9 – 18 Oct 1917
Ref: CM/9 – 18 Oct 1917

A Riseley Memorial Committee was established to investigate this further and they got in touch with the librarian at Windsor Castle who had commissioned a similar commemorative object. On the 21 February 1918, a draft sketch submitted by Mr William Thomas Pavitt, of 17 Hanover Square, a renowned metal worker, was chosen at a cost of £12.

Ref: CM/9 – 21 Feb 1918
Ref: CM/9 – 21 Feb 1918

The memorial tablet, which was received a few months later, consists of a beaten copper memorial plaque mounted on a thin oak board.  

Memorial Plaque

The plaque translates as:

In memory of Edwin Ephraim Riseley. Born on the 15 February 1889, in charge of this library from 1914 to 1917 during which period by universal consent he endeared himself to the Fellows [of the Linnean Society] by the energetic and able discharge of his duties; he had laid down for his country a life of high promise on the 1 August 1917 in the 29th year of his age.

The plaque was placed in the library as a permanent reminder of Riseley’s contribution to the work of the Society and still hangs there to this day.

Gwatkin album I - Field poppy
J R G Gwatkin - Field poppy
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19th July 2017: Giant sunfish species eludes discovery for centuries https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/07/19/19th-july-2017giant-sunfish-species-eludes-discovery-for-centuries Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:00:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/07/19/19th-july-2017giant-sunfish-species-eludes-discovery-for-centuries Sunfish

An elusive new species of ocean sunfish has been discovered by an international team of researchers led by a Murdoch University PhD student.

Marianne Nyegaard from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences uncovered  the new species while researching the population genetics of ocean sunfish in the Indo-pacific region.

The previously undescribed species has been named the Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola tecta).

Iconic ocean sunfishes are the heaviest and most distinctive of all bony fishes, with some species weighing in excess of two tonnes and growing to three metres in length. The newly discovered species is thought to approach a similar size.

The challenging journey to confirm the discovery was a four-year labour of love for Ms Nyegaard, who began her investigations after noticing genetic differences in sunfish samples from the Australian and New Zealand longline fishery.

“A Japanese research group first found genetic evidence of an unknown sunfish species in Australian waters 10 years ago, but the fish kept eluding the scientific community because we didn't know what it looked like,” Ms Nyegaard said.

Finding these fish and storing specimens for studies is a logistical nightmare due to their elusive nature and enormous size, so sunfish research is difficult at the best of times. Early on, when I was asked if I would be bringing my own crane to receive a specimen, I knew I was in for a challenging – but awesome – adventure.

Marianne Nyegaard

Over a three-year period she collected data from 27 specimens of the new species, at times travelling thousands of miles or relying on the kindness of strangers to take samples of sunfish found stranded on remote beaches.

“The new species managed to evade discovery for nearly three centuries by ‘hiding’ in a messy history of sunfish taxonomy, partially because they are so difficult to preserve and study, even for natural history museums,” Ms Nyegaard said.

That is why we named it Mola tecta (the Hoodwinker Sunfish), derived from the Latin tectus, meaning disguised or hidden.

Marianne Nyegaard

“This new species is the first addition to the Mola genus in 130 years. The process we had to go through to confirm its new species status included consulting publications from as far back as the 1500s, some of which also included descriptions of mermen and fantastical sea monsters. We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time. Overall we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the Hoodwinker.”

Similar to its two sister species, Mola mola and Mola ramsayi, the new species has the characteristic truncated appearance of half a fish, but the differences between the three species become clear with growth.

Sunfish

Mola tecta remains sleek and slender even in larger sizes, differing from the other species by not developing a protruding snout, or huge lumps and bumps. Ms Nyegaard suspects that, as with other sunfish species, feeding takes place during deep dives. The digestive tract contents of three specimens she sampled consisted mostly of salps, a gelatinous sea creature loosely resembling a jellyfish. Mola tecta appears to prefer cold water, and has so far been found around New Zealand, along the south-east coast of Australia, off South Africa and southern Chile.

Ms Nyegaard’s paper on the new sunfish species will be published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The research involves collaboration between Murdoch University, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the University of Otago, Hiroshima University and the University of Tokyo. 

Media enquiries: Pepita Smyth 9360 1289/0417171551 p.smyth@murdoch.edu.au  

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8th June 2017: World Oceans Day https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/06/08/8th-june-2017-world-oceans-day Thu, 08 Jun 2017 13:20:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/06/08/8th-june-2017-world-oceans-day Conus geographus – Harnessing the Power of this Mighty Mollusc

In honour of the World Oceans Day, we thought we’d revisit an article looking at the importance of a fascinating animal in our collections. (This article was originally published in PuLSe in June 2015.)

Cornus geographus
The Linnaean specimen of Conus geographus © The Linnean Society of London

Carl Linnaeus described this species as Conus geographus (the geography cone) in 1758. It was one of 700 molluscan species to be published in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae, a book that radically changed taxonomy and nomenclature. In the 12th edition of that work (1767) the number of described molluscs increased by over a hundred, and a further 28 were described in the “Regni Animalis appendix” of his Mantissa Plantarum (1771). The Linnean Society of London holds 1,564 lots of Linnaean mollusca, all of which have been digitised and are available to view online. 

Linnaeus based the description on the only thing available to him—the shell of the animal. Like many early taxonomists, he probably never saw the animal alive, solely working with the shell itself. Yet, the same animal described over 250 years ago is revolutionising science and saving lives.

C. geographus is one of 600 species of cones from the largest genus of marine animals. This group of sea snails is found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, with the highest diversity in the tropical Indo-West Pacific region. Cone snails are most commonly found in the sublittoral epipelagic zone, living on sandy regions or among rocks or coral reefs. They are carnivorous, highly-evolved predators, hunting prey such as marine worms, fish or other gastropods. The shells themselves have proven to be highly prized by shell collectors due to the variety of colours (brown, white or black), and the intricate and diverse patterns (dotted, zigzag or striped).

Sharp Shooters

Though their slow movement might otherwise preclude successful predation, an adaptation enables cone snails to catch their prey—a harpoon-like radula (primarily made of the polysaccharide chitin) is shot from the proboscis. This radula, or modified tooth, contains the venom conotoxin, a mixture of short peptides that induces neuromuscular paralysis in its prey, which is then swallowed whole. While all cone snails have this adaptation, interestingly no two species have the same venom proteins, and C. geographus itself dispenses two venoms—one defensive and one predatory. The venom of C. geographus is potentially fatal to humans; well known as the most venomous of all known cone snail species, it is considered to be one of the most deadly animals in the world, even nicknamed the “cigarette snail”, as a victim, once stung, may only have time for one last cigarette. Envenomations by Conus geographus are extremely rare (only ca. 15 deaths have been attributed, with conviction, to cone snails in Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies). Nevertheless, there is no antivenom for a cone snail sting, and treatment is limited to merely keeping victims alive until the toxins wear off.

Medical Resource

Cornus geographus
The venomous geography cone © Scott Johnson (underwaterkwaj.com)

Research shows that this venom has great potential in medicine and that, pharmacologically, the Conus genus is a fantastic resource. The venom was first studied in 1932 by clinical pathologist L.C.D. Hermitte. A patient had been stung and incapacitated by a cone snail in the Seychelles, and was still unable to walk some nine hours later. Hermitte, whose interest was piqued by the hidden power of such a small animal, dissected the snail and discovered the radular tooth, and the venom duct and bulb. Since then, practical applications to neurobiology and medicine have been found, with current research continuing to develop ways to utilise the venom. Certain components of the venom can be up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine, but without morphine's addictive properties and side-effects. This effective analgesic could be used for treating chronic pain found in patients suffering from cancer, arthritis, diabetes and AIDS. Other parts of the venom are being studied to help combat and relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's, with the peptide ‘conantokin G’ also showing positive signs in clinical trials for epilepsy. Additionally, recent studies have found that within the venom is a unique type of weaponised insulin that C. geographus releases in order to weaken entire schools of fish by bringing about reduced blood sugar levels. This weaponised insulin could assist in a better understanding of how blood sugar levels are regulated in humans.

We are just beginning to discern and take advantage of the medical possibilities of this venom. Continued study of conotoxins may help to make inroads in the treatment of not only the diseases previously listed, but addictions as well. And it all began over 250 years ago when this small marine mollusc was classified and described by Linnaeus.

Andreia Salvador, Curator, Marine Mollusca, Department of Life Sciences Natural History Museum, London

Leonie Berwick, Special Publications Manager, Linnean Society of London

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7th June 2017: Hiroshige's Fishes https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/06/07/june-2017-hiroshiges-fishes Wed, 07 Jun 2017 16:29:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/06/07/june-2017-hiroshiges-fishes

As the British Museum celebrates Japanese art with an exhibition focusing on the last 30 years of Hokusai’s life, the Linnean Society Library staff recently rediscovered its own treasure of Japanese art, that of another master, Hiroshige.

Like Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige, also Andō Hiroshige (1797–1858), was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, and is considered the last great master of that tradition. Western artists closely studied Hiroshige's compositions, and some, such as Vincent van Gogh, painted copies of Hiroshige's prints. Hiroshige is best known for his landscapes, and for his depictions of birds and flowers, but between 1832 and 1840 he produced a 'Grand series of fishes' ('Uwo-zukushi'), now quite rare. The series consists of two sets of ten woodblock colour prints of fishes, published around 1832 and 1840. 

Gunther

Seventeen of these 20 prints can be found in albums of animal art collected by German herpetologist and ichthyologist Albert E.L. Günther (1830–1914), held in the Linnean Society collections. Günther, FRS, FLS, was Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum, London, from 1875 to 1895, as well as thirteenth President of the Linnean Society from 1894 to 1900. Günther amassed a major collection of animal art in 39 large volumes of printed illustrations, drawings, photographs and printed ephemera on terrestrial and marine fauna of all regions. As Günther was an ichthyologist (his major work was the Catalogue of Fishes (1859-1870), published by the Ray Society), he collected a large amount of art linked to fishes. 

Hiroshige's prints often team fish with plants, and the poetic text surrounding the illustration comments on the seasons and the pleasures found in nature. Hence the print of 'Hirame' and 'Mebaru' (flounder, mebaru and cherry blossom) relates to the month of March: ‘The taste of fish and the sweet smell of blossoms; both reach their peak in the spring.’

Hiroshige

For summer, Hiroshige has chosen to depict a crab and a mackerel, accompanied by morning glory: 'The fish market comes to life at dawn like a great morning glory opening up.'

Hiroshige

As for October, the plant is a low striped bamboo, and the fishes two gurnards and a right eye flounder. The text reads: 'The flounder are like autumn leaves hanging in the sun near the fisherman's hut.'

Hiroshige

Hiroshige's Fishes are rare, and they were later reproduced, copied and reprinted. We would be keen to know more about the Linnean Society woodblocks and we welcome anyone with a knowledge of Japanese art to come and have a look at them and help us uncover more about these prints. 

The Library is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, and accessible to all. It is recommended to contact us before your visit, as the Library is sometimes closed for functions.

Isabelle Charmantier, Deputy Librarian

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25th May 2017: Medal Winners 2017 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/05/26/25th-may-2017-medal-winners-2017 Fri, 26 May 2017 10:47:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/05/26/25th-may-2017-medal-winners-2017 Medal Winners 2017
From left to right: David Rollinson, Tim Douthit, Sonia Rowley, John Walters, Lynn Dicks, Steven Dodsworth, John Thompson, Paul Brakefield, Claire Spottiswoode, Johannes Girstmair, Kwaku Aduse-Poku, Charlie Jarvis and David John © The Linnean Society of London

At our Anniversary Meeting on Wednesday 24th May 2017, Professor Paul Brakefield—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.

Charlie Jarvis received the Linnean Medal (Botany) to a biologist for service to science.

Charlie Jarvis


David Rollinson received the Linnean Medal (Zoology) to a biologist for service to science.

David Rollinson


John Thompson received the Darwin-Wallace Medal to persons who have made major advances in evolutionary biology.

John Thompson


Claire Spottiswoode received the Bicentenary Medal to a biologist under the age of 40 years in recognition of excellent work.

Claire Spottiswoode


Johannes Girstmair received the Trail-Crisp Medal in recognition of an outstanding contribution to biological microscopy that has been published in the UK.

​Johannes Girstmair


Steven Dodsworth received the Irene Manton Prize to a PhD student for the best botany thesis in an academic year.

Steven Dodsworth


Kwaku Aduse-Poku was awarded the John C Marsden Medal for the best doctoral thesis in biology.

​Kwaku Aduse-Poku


John Walters received the H H Bloomer Award awarded to an amateur naturalist for an important contribution to biological knowledge.

John Walters


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

Lynn Dicks


Karin Douthit and David Williamson received the Jill Smythies Award to a botanical artist for outstanding illustrations.

Tim Douthit on behalf of Karin Douthit
Tim Douthit received the award on Karin Douthit's behalf
David John on behalf of David Williamson
David John received the award on David Williamson's behalf


Sonia Rowley received the Sir David Attenborough Award for Fieldwork from the Systematics Association and the Linnean Society of London.

Sonia Rowley

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 2018 are now open and will close on 30th November 2017.

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23rd May 2017: Virtual Issues: 100 years of the Swedish Linnaeus Society https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/05/23/virtual-issue-100-years-of-the-swedish-linnaeus-society Mon, 22 May 2017 23:00:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/05/23/virtual-issue-100-years-of-the-swedish-linnaeus-society Hand-printed feather by Rebecca Jewell © Linnean Society
Hand-printed feather by Rebecca Jewell © Linnean Society

The Swedish Linnaeus Society (Svenska Linnésällskapet) is devoted to the study of Carl Linnaeus. Founded at a meeting in Hammarby, the country house of Linnaeus outside Uppsala, on May 23, 1917 (the 210th birthday of Carl Linnaeus), the Society celebrates its centenary this month. To mark this event and the close relationship between the Linnean Society of London and the Swedish Linnaeus Society, we are publishing virtual issues of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society and the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. These showcase examples of recent work by Swedish researchers (and researchers based in Sweden), shown in italics, that have been published in our journals and that demonstrate the global reach of Swedish science.

Vi gratulerar Svenska Linnésällskapet till detta stora jubileum!

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27th April 2017: Trees of Life – A Visual History https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/28/27-april-2017-trees-of-life-a-visual-history Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:58:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/28/27-april-2017-trees-of-life-a-visual-history Dichotomus diagrams_Carl Linnaeus (1727-1730)
Dichotomus diagrams by Carl Linnaeus (1727-1730)

The idea of a tree as a metaphor for understanding and graphically displaying relationships among organisms is most often attributed to Charles Darwin (1809–1882), who fully developed the notion in his 1859 Origins of species by means of natural selection. However the concept is considerably older, and can be traced back to the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, and the Great Chain of Being, which was developed throughout the Middle Ages and well into the 18th century.


Dichotomous branching tree_Nicolas Charles Seringe_1815_Web
Dichotomous branching tree by Nicolas Charles Seringe (1815)

As part of the launch of a new explorer for the complete tree of life produced by the UK charity OneZoom, a display in the Library of the Linnean Society explores the visual history and wide variety of forms of trees of life. The display starts from Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) and his use of dichotomous diagrams, which were the ubiquitous amongst 18th century naturalists. It then explores other forms of displaying relationships between organisms: Charles Bonnet's (1720–1793) staircase Great Chain of Being, or Scala naturae (ladder of nature), which portrays the temporal order in which God created life on Earth, with man at the top; George Louis Leclec de Buffon's (1707–1788) genealogical diagram of the races of dogs; and early evolutionary trees such as Nicolas Charles Seringe's (1776–1858) dichotomous branching tree representing the species of the willows of Switzerland (genus Salix) or Antoine-Nicolas Duchesne's (1747–1827) upside-down tree of nine races or varieties of strawberries.

Tree of Life_Ernst Haeckel
Tree of Life by Ernst Haeckel

The first concept of a tree of life as a diagram that shows the evolutionary divergence or branching of groups of organisms through time was first drawn by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) in 1809, fifty years before Darwin’s famous branching diagram. The end of the 19th century and early 20th century signalled the end of all other ways of displaying relationships between organisms in favour of the tree of life. Some biologists were great tree makers, such as Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), who drew hundreds of visually striking genealogical trees to which specific biological taxa were assigned. 


Over the last century, the discovery of genetics and molecular biology have made the tree of life one of the most important organizing principles in biology. Attempts have been made to design a universal tree of life, most notably by David Mark Hillis (1958–), in the form of a radial branching diagram. But even an approximation of the full scale of the tree has remained elusive.

'Trees of Life: a Visual History' is a free display in the Reading Room of the Library of the Linnean Society. The Library is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, and accessible to all. It is recommended to contact us before your visit, as the Library is sometimes closed for functions.

Isabelle Charmantier, Deputy Librarian

Reference

PIETSCH, Theodore W. Trees of Life : A Visual History of Evolution. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.

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12th April 2017: Artist, Scientist, Explorer: Mark Catesby in the Carolinas https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/12/12th-april-2017-artist-scientist-explorer-mark-catesby-in-the-carolinas Wed, 12 Apr 2017 13:52:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/12/12th-april-2017-artist-scientist-explorer-mark-catesby-in-the-carolinas Catesby Summer Duck
The Summer Duck (1722–1726) by Mark Catesby. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Charleston's Gibbes Museum of Art announces a new special exhibition opening—Artist, Scientist, Explorer: Mark Catesby in the Carolinas. The show, which runs from 12 May – 24 September 2017, features 44 watercolor paintings by English artist, scientist and explorer Mark Catesby, generously lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from the British Royal Collection. In 1722, Catesby arrived in Charleston and traveled throughout South Carolina and beyond documenting birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, insects, and mammals indigenous to the American colonies. Eighty percent of these watercolours have never been seen in the US before. 

On Saturday, 13 May there will be a symposium on The World of Mark Catesby that it is open to the public. Starting at 9 am with Henrietta McBurney—formerly Deputy Keeper of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and followed by Leslie Overstreet—Curator Natural History Rare Books at the Smithsonian Libraries and the leading authority on Catesby's masterwork The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Henrietta and Leslie are not only the authors of relevant chapters in The Curious Mister Catesby: a "truly ingenious" naturalist explores new world,  but were also advisors in the production of the PBS documentary The Curious Mister Catesby.


Catesby Red Bird
The Red Bird, the Hiccory Tree and the Pignut (722–1726) by Mark Catesby. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Some original George Edwards watercolours will also be exhibited. These watercolours, which have been in Charleston's Drayton family for almost three centuries, are now housed at Charleston's historic Drayton Hall plantation. The panel discussion will be introduced by Professor Richard Porcher—leading authority on the botany and agriculture of colonial South Carolina, and will be moderated by Professor Patrick McMillan. Panelists will include Carter Hudgins—President of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust and David Elliott—Executive Director of the Catesby Commemorative Trust.

The Gibbes Museum of Art will be holding other events during the course of the summer, including two screenings of The Curious Mister Catesby on 30 May and 20 July. The May 30 event will also include a book signing by Sylvia Bacon, principal author of a new picture book Mark Catesby's Natural History: An Introduction.

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7th April 2017: Summary Briefing Document on the Nagoya Protocol (Access and Benefit-Sharing) https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/07/7th-april-2017-summary-briefing-document-on-the-nagoya-protocol-access-and-benefit-sharing Fri, 07 Apr 2017 13:58:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/07/7th-april-2017-summary-briefing-document-on-the-nagoya-protocol-access-and-benefit-sharing Earth

By providing an overview of the Nagoya Protocol (NP), together with links to more detailed information, this document seeks to enhance awareness and understanding of this international agreement. 

Download the Summary Briefing Document on the Nagoya Protocol (Access and Benefit-Sharing)

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6th April 2017: Not so Fierce Beasts https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/06/6th-april-2017-not-so-fierce-beasts Thu, 06 Apr 2017 15:40:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/04/06/6th-april-2017-not-so-fierce-beasts Elizabeth Murchison
Elizabeth Murchison

The Linnean Society has long been at the forefront of scientific discoveries, and our latest display illustrates the connection between the society and the discovery of the mysterious tasmanian devil and tasmanian tiger.

Fellows and members of the public were treated to a fascinating talk by Dr Elizabeth Murchison on Transmissible Cancers in Tasmanian Devils at the last Evening Meeting of the Society. This talk outlined the danger faced by Devils from a deadly transmissible cancer, spread through biting, which has seen numbers decline rapidly in recent years.


Tasmanian devil
Tasmanian devil by E Fry (1970)

The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial. It belongs to the Dasyuridae family and is only found on the Australian Island State of Tasmania, after they went extinct on mainland Australia — probably because the introduction of the dingo. They take their name from their signature screams and can live up to 5 years in the wild.

Our meeting rooms were the perfect setting for this lecture as the first written account of the Tasmanian Devil, as well as the Tasmanian Tiger, was sent to the Linnean Society in 1808 by naturalist, George Harris. His paper, which still exists in the archive today, contains illustrations and descriptions of the appearance and behaviour of the creatures.

Our latest display, which includes material from our library and archive, celebrates the discovery of the Tasmanian devil, as well as the now extinct Tasmanian tiger. One of the highlights is a beautiful illustration of the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) by John Lewin in c. 1809.

Tasmanian tiger
Tasmanian tiger by J Lewin (1809)

The last of these creatures was thought to have died out in 1936, and the species was officially declared extinct in 1986, but recent possible sightings in northern Queensland have led to renewed hope that the species did not die out after all.

The exhibition also examines the danger which humans associated with these creatures, which is evident in Harris’ early account, and the devastating effect this fear had on the survival of these two species.  

Come along and see the displays which are in the reading room!

Liz McGow, Archivist

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27th March 2017: Treasures from the Collections: Conrad Gessner https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/03/27/26th-march-2017-rare-books Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:15:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/03/27/26th-march-2017-rare-books Title page of Gessner's Catalogus plantarum
Gessner's Catalogus plantarum Latine, Graece, Germanice, & Gallice (1572)

Born 501 years ago, on 26 March 1516, Conrad Gessner was a true Renaissance scholar. His interests ranged from the classics and linguistics to natural history and medicine. Best known as a botanist to his contemporaries, Gessner worked as a physician in Zürich for most of his life. Today, he is best known for his impressive five-volume Historiae animalium (1551–1558), whose illustrations continue to enchant but whose dense encyclopaedic text defeats all but a few tenacious scholars. For his research, Gessner relied on his rich library as well as on his own direct observation, collection and dissection of specimens. He loved walking in the mountains, not only to collect plant specimens, but for the pure enjoyment of nature. Gessner died of the plague on 13 December 1565. Legend has it that he asked to be taken to his library where he had spent so much of his life, to die among his favourite books. At the time of his death, Gessner had published 72 books, and written 18 more unpublished manuscripts. His work on plants was not published until after his death.

The Linnean Society has several books by Gessner, both in the rare books section of the Library and within the Linnaean collections. Some of these volumes have fascinating histories and are made more precious still by their provenance.


Spines of Gessner Historiae Animalium
Gessner's Historiae Animalium

The 1542 Catalogus plantarum Latine, Graece, Germanice, & Gallice was Gessner’s second botanical work, an alphabetically arranged catalogue of plant names in four languages: Latin, Greek, German and French. According to Wellisch, ‘this early work is already characteristic of Gessner’s life-long endeavour to arrange scientific topics in alphabetical or systematic order; it also shows his proficiency in languages, and his interest in their comparative treatment.’ The copy at the Linnean Society is interleaved, but the interleaves have hardly been used. In 1698, it was acquired by the physician Robert Gray (fl. 1664–1722), a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Gray annotated the volume heavily.

It then successively came into the possession of Philip Miller (1691–1771), chief gardener of Chelsea Physic Garden, and then of Joseph Banks (1743–1820) who donated it to the Linnean Society’s founder, James Edward Smith (1759–1828).


Gessner, Historiae animalium, ostrich
Woodcut of an ostrich

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) owned two works by Gessner: De raris et admirandis herbis (1555), which is bound with In Dioscoridis by Amatus Lusitanus, and the second edition of the five-volume Historiae animalium (1617-21), bound in three hefty volumes. Linnaeus rarely annotated his library books, but the second volume of the Historiae animalium contains a leaf with printed text dated 1743, on the back of which Linnaeus made some brief annotations. This leaf has been left in the volume, at page 671, facing the rather impressive woodcut of an ostrich.


The history of these books show that Conrad Gessner’s work was read, valued and used by naturalists and physicians well into the 18th century. They are still very much cherished to this day.

Isabelle Charmantier, Deputy Librarian

References

GESSNER, Conrad. Catalogus Plantarum Latine, Graece, Germanice, & Gallice ... Adjectae Sunt Etiam Herbarum Nomenclaturae Variarum Gentium, Dioscoridi Ascriptae, Secundum Literatum Ordinem Expositae. Tiguri: Christoph. Froschouerum, 1542.

GESSNER, Conrad. Conradi Ges ... de Raris et Admirandis Herbis, Quae Sive Quod Noctu Luceant, Siue Alias Ob Causas, Lunariae Nominantur, Commentariolus: & Obiter de Aliis Etiam Rebus Quae in Tenebrislucent ... Tiguri: Apud Andream Gesnerum & Jacobum Gesnerum, 1555.

GESSNER, Conrad. Conr. Gesneri ... Historiae Animalium Liber Primus (-V) ... Editio Secunda ... Auctior Atque ... Emendatior. Francofurti: In Bibliopolio Henrici Laurentii, 1617-21.

WELLISCH, Hans H. Conrad Gessner, A bio-bibliography. Zug (Switzerland), 1984.

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3rd March 2017: The Linnean Society receives the visit of the Embassy of Sweden https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/03/10/3rd-march-2017-the-linnean-society-receives-the-visit-of-the-embassy-of-sweden Fri, 10 Mar 2017 15:14:00 +0000 https://www.linnean.org/the-society/news/2017/03/10/3rd-march-2017-the-linnean-society-receives-the-visit-of-the-embassy-of-sweden Group photo Embassy of Sweden

Last week, the Linnean Society was honoured to receive the visit of H E Mr Torbjörn Sohlström, Ambassador of Sweden, accompanied by members of the Embassy—Ms Ellen Wettmark (Counsellor, Cultural Affairs); Ms Sophie Tzelidis (Counsellor, Consular Affairs); Ms Anna Granström Livesey (PA to Ambassador); Ms Susanne Rosenberg (Third Secretary, Responsible for Embassy Archive); and Mr Johan Berglund (Counsellor Foreign and Security Policy).


Embassy of Sweden

The visit included a tour of our historic Meeting Room and the vault, where our guests were bowled over by the herbarium specimen of Linnaea borealis, Carl Linnaeus’s signature plant; the first edition of Systema Naturae (1735); and the Linnean manuscripts, particularly Linnaeus's famous Lapland diary (1732). These manuscripts are the basis for Linnaeus’s published works and the foundation for modern taxonomy. 

Our guests then congregated in our magnificent Library to enjoy a display of memorabilia over a glass of wine. The artefacts on display, gathered by Glenn Benson—Curator of Artefacts—included Linnaeus’s cardboard pencil case and rubber eraser and the Bicentenary Medal (1978), showing the portrait of Linnaeus on the obverse and a tree with the name Systema Naturae written ornately in the branches on the reverse.


The gold medal below was presented to the botanist Sir Joseph Hooker by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences—of which Linnaeus was the first president—to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. Hooker was almost 90 at the time and unable to travel to Sweden, so it was collected on his behalf by Sir Rennell Rodd. The medal on the right was struck in Sweden and presented to the Linnean Society of London in 1957 to commemorate 250 years since the birth of Linnaeus.

Alicia Fernandez, Events and Communications Manager

200 Anniversary to Hooker
250 Anniversary to LS
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