Published by Leonie on behalf of Learning Volunteer & Women in Science Tour Guide Alex Holding
As a taster for the free NHM Women in Science Tours, Learning Volunteers will be sharing blogs on some pioneering women of science. We can learn more about them, their work and share some information about the Museum’s displays and cutting-edge science. Our first venture is Mary Mantell.
Mary Mantell was an active amateur fossil hunter in the nineteenth century. Arguably, she is less well known than her namesake Mary Anning. Mantell’s reputation is also eclipsed by that of her husband Gideon Mantell, a medical doctor, renowned amateur geologist, and palaeontologist.
12th February 1832: There has been a little swell on the sea to day, & I have been very uncomfortable Charles Darwin’s diary entry on his birthday 190 years ago.
While on board the voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin recorded the journey and mentions notable days like Christmas day and New Year’s day, but although he records each year what he did on the 12th February, he never mentions that it was his birthday.
Darwin aged 31, George Richamond via Wikimedia Commons
Map showing Darwin’s main overland excursions in South America.
HMS Beagle took Charles Darwin on his famous voyage of discovery from 1831-1836. Darwin collected thousands of specimens, many of which survive in the collections of the Museum, but how did these specimens make their way to the UK from remote locations around the world?
by Robin Hansen, Curator, Minerals and Gemstones, NHM Earth Sciences
As part of the Galley Enhancements Programme to refresh the Museum’s Earth Galleries Ground Floor, we’ve been working on the specimens to improve the experience for visitors, improve collection visibility and update the science.
Comparing the surviving fossil mammal specimens collected by Charles Darwin during the Voyage of the Beagle with original drawings and casts of the specimens from 1837-1840, it is clear that some have sustained significant damage in the 185 years since they were collected.
In 2014, Professor Adrian Lister began research for his book on the fossils collected by Charles Darwin on the Voyage of the Beagle. As part of his research, Professor Lister began to document the complex histories of these specimens from their point of collection to the present day. It soon became clear that the mammalian specimens had not been adequately documented or revised in the 185 years since their initial publication. This has meant that they have not been included in most modern scientific studies. This is despite the fact that the majority of the specimens in this collection are ‘type’ specimens (the reference specimens for that species), essential for scientific study of these species.
Sharks first evolved almost 200 million years before the dinosaurs and we’re still learning more about species past and present. Emma Bernard, Curator of Fossil Fish, joined Alistair Hendry to show off some of the Museum’s shark specimens, and to answer your questions. Find out just how huge a Megalodon tooth is, discover strange shark species and see some incredible fossil specimens including one where cartilaginous soft tissue has been preserved.
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Imagine travel with no need for a passport, no lengthy queues for security, no limits to baggage, and when passing through customs, you could happily note, ‘no questions asked about my gun’.
That, for the pioneering palaeontologist, Dorothea Bate, was the upside to travel in the early years of the 20th Century. It was by no means all positive, however. Travel by ship and train round Europe, not to mention journeying by a variety of ‘quads’ – donkey, mule and pony – over mountainous Mediterranean islands could be challenging, to say the least.