History of Science

bioephemera

Category archives for History of Science

Mechanical butterfly, circa 1911

Check out this great slideshow of fascinating advertising novelties from 1911, over at Scientific American.

Perry’s Arcana

From 1810-11, architect and amateur naturalist George Perry published The Arcana, a lavishly illustrated, serial natural history magazine. Although Perry intended for the serial issues to be assembled by his subscribers into a book, only thirteen complete copies are known to survive today. More than a third of the known copies are in Australia –…

This 1967 IBM propaganda film, “Paperwork Explosion,” couples an eerily deadpan refrain of “more time on paperwork,” with a creepy pseudo-country neighbor* urging us to embrace Progress. The film’s frenetic soundtrack and abrupt transitions embody the familiar hysterical nervousness of an increasingly automated era, while striving the whole time to convince us that technology will…

. . . they could have. Or pretty darn close, at least – they just needed to visit one of the many European cabinets of anatomical curiosities, to see the work of anatomists like Honore Fragonard. Fragonard’s eighteenth-century ecorches were the clear precursors to Gunther von Hagens’ “Body Worlds” exhibits: preserved, injected, partially dissected bodies…

A confluence of influences

minouette of magpie & whiskeyjack has posted an interesting meditation on the resemblances between Katie Scott‘s whimsical faux-botanical/biological atlas pages (above), the illustrations of Ernst Haeckel (whose portrait minouette just finished), and the Codex Seraphinianous. It’s a harmonious grouping of artistic influences – check it out.

Anatomical engraving from Henry Gray’s Anatomy, 1858. A month or so ago, Abrams books reached out to mention that they were releasing a new title, Human Anatomy: A Visual History from the Renaissance to the Digital Age. I said, “don’t I already have this book?” It turns out I did – I had the previous,…

At the moment, a few blocks away, a few of my friends are attending a Science and Technology Studies (STS) conference at the Harvard Kennedy School. I have no idea what they’re doing, although I’m sure it’s very smart. I’m only here to tell you they have THE CREEPIEST POSTER I have ever seen for…

Wait – did Peter Nowogrodski just shoehorn everything I love into one meandering, indulgent multimedia essay??* Tolkien’s Shire appears as a coherent ecosystem, cradled by productive fields and populated by abundant orchards, caches of edible mushroom, and even the fishable Bywater Pool, ornamented with an authentic churning mill. The land at Hobbiton is changing still:…

The 2011 Congress of Curious Peoples, featuring, among other guests, Anna Maerker, author of Model Experts: Wax Anatomies and Enlightenment in Florence and Vienna, 1775-1815; Mike Sappol, author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America; Elizabeth Stephens, author of Anatomy as Spectacle: Public Exhibitions of the Body from…

Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss, poems that take a thousand years to die but ape the immortality of this red label on a little butterfly. – excerpt from Vladimir Nabokov’s “On Discovering a Butterfly” It’s not very well known that novelist Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, was also a lepidopterist; for six…