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Abstract

In the course of the six centuries and more considered here, the concept of the naturalist and of the work that he or she undertakes in the field gradually took form and continues to develop. The status of the practitioners involved is so widely disparate as to defy easy categorization. In these introductory remarks some of the principal communities – arbitrarily defined – contributing to this movement are reviewed: a number of the most significant figures emerged from within the academic milieu, conducting their work initially in the tradition of the classical authors whose tracts held sway until the late Renaissance, yet they were increasingly reliant on the ocular evidence on which the New Science was built; others came from outside this tradition but contributed invaluable personal experience, insight and knowledge, practically acquired. Both are celebrated here, and their mutually enriching relationships are explored. Other essays here adopt a more specific focus in order to chart the ways in which the field practice that lies at the heart of this volume was guided and influenced by those who commissioned collecting expeditions – initially the founders of collectors’ cabinets, later the owners of systematic collections and ultimately the curators of veritable natural history museums. All of these operated in the role of sponsors for the field naturalists and all were anxious that material should reach them not only in optimum condition but with appropriate contextual data. Their demands were communicated variously in the course of correspondence, in printed pamphlets and ultimately in book-length instructions published for the benefit of those in the field: some of these texts are reproduced verbatim as appendices at the end of the volume.


In: Naturalists in the Field

Abstract

In the course of the six centuries and more considered here, the concept of the naturalist and of the work that he or she undertakes in the field gradually took form and continues to develop. The status of the practitioners involved is so widely disparate as to defy easy categorization. In these introductory remarks some of the principal communities – arbitrarily defined – contributing to this movement are reviewed: a number of the most significant figures emerged from within the academic milieu, conducting their work initially in the tradition of the classical authors whose tracts held sway until the late Renaissance, yet they were increasingly reliant on the ocular evidence on which the New Science was built; others came from outside this tradition but contributed invaluable personal experience, insight and knowledge, practically acquired. Both are celebrated here, and their mutually enriching relationships are explored. Other essays here adopt a more specific focus in order to chart the ways in which the field practice that lies at the heart of this volume was guided and influenced by those who commissioned collecting expeditions – initially the founders of collectors’ cabinets, later the owners of systematic collections and ultimately the curators of veritable natural history museums. All of these operated in the role of sponsors for the field naturalists and all were anxious that material should reach them not only in optimum condition but with appropriate contextual data. Their demands were communicated variously in the course of correspondence, in printed pamphlets and ultimately in book-length instructions published for the benefit of those in the field: some of these texts are reproduced verbatim as appendices at the end of the volume.


In: Naturalists in the Field
Author: Glyn Williams

Abstract

The last forty years of the eighteenth century saw a surge of geographical discovery in the Pacific. Expeditions from several European countries mapped a myriad of islands in the vast ocean, while naturalists on the discovery vessels collected an overwhelming bounty of flora and fauna. Their lot was not an easy one, for both on board ship and ashore danger alternated with boredom and discomfort; quarrels with the ships’ officers, who had very different priorities, were frequent. Nor did these difficulties end upon the naturalists’ returning home, where their specimens were often neglected and recognition for years of work proved elusive.


In: Naturalists in the Field
Author: Glyn Williams

Abstract

The last forty years of the eighteenth century saw a surge of geographical discovery in the Pacific. Expeditions from several European countries mapped a myriad of islands in the vast ocean, while naturalists on the discovery vessels collected an overwhelming bounty of flora and fauna. Their lot was not an easy one, for both on board ship and ashore danger alternated with boredom and discomfort; quarrels with the ships’ officers, who had very different priorities, were frequent. Nor did these difficulties end upon the naturalists’ returning home, where their specimens were often neglected and recognition for years of work proved elusive.


In: Naturalists in the Field

Abstract

Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands was one of the most expensive publications of the eighteenth century: lauded by many, and celebrated for its 220 hand-coloured etchings, it brought instant renown to its author. The 150-plus copies found homes in the libraries and cabinets of subscribers, and the original watercolours were eventually acquired by George III (today in the Royal Library at Windsor). The etchings illustrate flora and fauna in a broad sense, but Catesby’s birds – which occupy fully one-half of the illustrations – have always held centre stage, and Catesby has been called the “founder of American ornithology”. Here we concentrate on the birds and seek to understand why Catesby focused on certain species and not others; why he “collected” certain birds for “illumination”, which he regarded as the prerequisite to “perfect understanding”; why he pictured certain birds with certain plants; what sense he made of birds in a text whose structure can be traced in part to John Ray’s Ornithology of Francis Willughby, and whose content reflects the Baconian principle of “ocular testimony”; and how text and image together reflect considerations variously linked to geography, habitat, diet, ecology, the commodification of flora, and patrons or subscribers – all of which influenced what he thought about and selected in order to illustrate and discuss natural history. 


In: Naturalists in the Field

Abstract

Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands was one of the most expensive publications of the eighteenth century: lauded by many, and celebrated for its 220 hand-coloured etchings, it brought instant renown to its author. The 150-plus copies found homes in the libraries and cabinets of subscribers, and the original watercolours were eventually acquired by George III (today in the Royal Library at Windsor). The etchings illustrate flora and fauna in a broad sense, but Catesby’s birds – which occupy fully one-half of the illustrations – have always held centre stage, and Catesby has been called the “founder of American ornithology”. Here we concentrate on the birds and seek to understand why Catesby focused on certain species and not others; why he “collected” certain birds for “illumination”, which he regarded as the prerequisite to “perfect understanding”; why he pictured certain birds with certain plants; what sense he made of birds in a text whose structure can be traced in part to John Ray’s Ornithology of Francis Willughby, and whose content reflects the Baconian principle of “ocular testimony”; and how text and image together reflect considerations variously linked to geography, habitat, diet, ecology, the commodification of flora, and patrons or subscribers – all of which influenced what he thought about and selected in order to illustrate and discuss natural history. 


In: Naturalists in the Field

Abstract

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) fur traders can claim an honourable place in the history of natural history. They supplied bird specimens that were painted by George Edwards in England in the 1740s, which were then given Latin names by Linnaeus – second only to Catesby’s Carolina collections. In the 1820s the HBC supplied Franklin’s two Arctic land expeditions, especially the first. John Richardson’s collections “provided a more complete pre-Caucasian inventory of natural history than … anywhere else in North America.” In the 1860s HBC factor Roderick Ross MacFarlane extended studies to the sub-arctic to record almost everything now known about the (apparently now extinct) Eskimo Curlew. 


In: Naturalists in the Field

Abstract

Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) fur traders can claim an honourable place in the history of natural history. They supplied bird specimens that were painted by George Edwards in England in the 1740s, which were then given Latin names by Linnaeus – second only to Catesby’s Carolina collections. In the 1820s the HBC supplied Franklin’s two Arctic land expeditions, especially the first. John Richardson’s collections “provided a more complete pre-Caucasian inventory of natural history than … anywhere else in North America.” In the 1860s HBC factor Roderick Ross MacFarlane extended studies to the sub-arctic to record almost everything now known about the (apparently now extinct) Eskimo Curlew. 


In: Naturalists in the Field

A millennium-long tree-ring width chronology for the middle Qilian Mountains in northwestern China has been developed back to A.D. 775. Correlation analysis indicates that the tree-ring width reflects growingseason moisture variability. Our chronology reveals three distinct periods based on the prevailing moisture anomalies: A.D. 775–1101 (wetness persistence), 1101–1831 (dryness persistence) and 1831–2006 (wetness persistence). A 31-year running mean through the tree-ring index series clearly shows seven obvious dry spells and eight wet spells. Compared with the proxies associated with the East Asian monsoon and the westerlies in the past millennium, our moisture-sensitive tree-ring chronology revealed that the East Asian summer monsoon had a strong influence on tree growth before A.D. 1300. From about A.D. 1450–1750, the westerlies strongly affected the Qilian Mountains. After A.D. 1750, a combined influence of both East Asian monsoon and westerlies was apparent. In the past century, the effect of westerlies has become stronger. Our results suggest that tree rings can preserve the information on the advance and retreats of the westerlies and the East Asian summer monsoon. Additionally, this research is helpful for understanding the driving mechanism of the Asian monsoon and the westerlies in northwestern China over the past thousand years.

Free access
In: IAWA Journal

Abstract

The role of the first naturalists appointed by the East India Company in the later 1700s has been presented as essentially a subsidiary one – that of agents at the periphery with a primary duty to supply specimens to the scientific community of the metropolis (and especially its dominant figure, Sir Joseph Banks) rather than involving themselves in interpretation: the role is one that Banks himself made explicit, insisting on it on more than one occasion. Independently of this axis, an invaluable local relationship developed between the Company men (notably Patrick Russell and William Roxburgh) and naturalists from the German mission at the Danish colony of Tranquebar (especially Johann Gerhard König, Christoph Samuel John, and Johann Peter Rottler). The strong bonds of friendship that developed between these pioneer collectors – all of them physicians by training – on the Coromandel coast produced a mutually beneficial milieu in which continental and British practice mingled and flowered, ushering in the heyday of field collecting in British India.


In: Naturalists in the Field