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Journal Special Issue: Natural History, Medicine, and New Science

Our pertinacious (we’re running out of adjectives) Martin Lister Research Fellow – and recent inductee of the Linnean Society – Anna Marie Roos has guest-edited a special issue of the prestigious journal Notes and Records of the Royal Society.

The special issue publishes the proceedings of the day conference History Comes to Life: Seventeenth-Century Natural History, Medicine, and the New Science, organized by Anna Marie at The Royal Society in April (with the financial and logistical support of the project, The Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust, the John Fell Fund, and the BSHS). It features six fresh and fascinating articles from leading authorities on a wide range of topics at the intersection of seventeenth-century natural history, medicine, and science, including Buffon and animals, Francis Willughby and insects, and Jan Swammerdam’s abiding intellectual infatuation with frogs and toads. You can now enjoy early access to the articles online; the print version of the special issue will be available at the end of November. You can also listen to the podcasts from the conference. Congratulations to Anna Marie and the rest of the contributors!

History Comes to Life Conference at The Royal Society

Podcasts on the conference page!

In commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the death of Martin Lister, and in another collaboration between Cultures of Knowledge and The Royal Society, our indefatigable Lister Research Fellow Anna Marie Roos organized a conference on History Comes to Life: Seventeenth-Century Natural History, Medicine, and the New Science at the Society’s London premises on 27 April 2012.

Generously sponsored by the project, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, the John Fell Fund, and the BSHS, sixty-three delegates attended the day-long event, which featured papers from eleven international authorities on early modern science. Speakers discussed everything from the views of French naturalists about the differences between dromedaries and camels, to the chequered history of the publication of the cabinet of natural curiosities of Albertus Seba, to the ornithology of Francis Willughby and John Ray and the scientific representation of frogs and toads.


Helen Watt, our Lhwyd researcher.


Perusing the exhibition.


Anna Marie talks to Jill Lewis.


Early modern ornithologies.

There was a concomitant exhibition in the Royal Society’s Marble Hall, also curated by Anna Marie, featuring a display of relevant books from the Society’s collections; highlights were a bear paw clam displayed alongside its illustration by Lister’s daughters in his Historiae Conchyliorum (1692-97), and John Ray’s Historia Plantarum, in which Ray deployed the terms ‘petal’ and ‘pollen’ for the first time. In a further exciting output, Anna Marie will guest edit a special conference issue of Notes and Records of the Royal Society (December 2012) dedicated to the complex interplay between seventeenth-century medicine and natural history. Dovetailing out from Lister’s own contributions, the special issue will consider to what extent practices and technologies of natural history changed between the Renaissance and the seventeenth century, and will explore how the acquisition of knowledge concerning the natural world and new taxonomies affected the perception and treatment of beasts for medical and experimental use.