This post starts from two seemingly diverse places:
Last month (Aug 2014) the University of Sussex published an article in ‘Current Biology’ (Vol 24 No. 15) on the important role played by the eye, and particularly the ears, in communication between horses. Now this may seem to be a very contemporary start to a historical blog, but I include it to show that visual communication remains in the 21st century a topic of interest as it was in the 19th century. Whilst the current study focused on the use of the ears and eyes in indicating attention to food, the use of facial features – the mouth, the eyes, the nose and even the ears – within intra- and inter-species communication, alongside more general body language, can be found in countless naturalist and anatomical writings from the 18th century onwards.
Pain is a difficult subject to write about, because it is a difficult concept to truly understand in a wider context than the personal. My experience pain, and therefore my understanding of pain, is different from yours. I cannot experience your pain, no matter how much I can empathise with it, and as such it remains something abstract within my experiential field. Javier Moscoso writes in Pain: A Cultural History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) of pain being a temporary entity and one which “cannot be located either in the history of the passions or in the history of the sciences. For one thing, it does not refer to the acquisition of knowledge, but to the production of meaning.” Pain finds itself “halfway between the world of emotions and the realm of sensations…” As not only is pain a physical entity, it is also an emotional one; yet in both cases, a physical language, as much as a verbal language is used to express these (physical and emotional) feelings.
And therefore my two beginnings are brought together…….In the communication of pain – and here I emphasize communication not understanding – we, as humans relay on expression – both facial and bodily. And, as it turns out, so do the lower animals. But this notion is nothing new.
Well as promised, here is the second half of my run down of the animals and their histories, that put in an appearance at iCHSTM (International Congress for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine) last week in Manchester (21-28 July 201.
Well I began ‘Animal Day’ (as I took to calling last Wednesday, aka Day 3) with two papers on the history of entomology in Russia. Insect, or insect pests in particular, were the basis of two papers that considered issues of the professional vs. the amateur, and the change in the relationship between the 2 as the number of professionals increased.
Day 3 continued with ‘Beyond the Animal Model’, a session dedicated to all things (well almost all things) animal. Continue reading
Well hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of historians of science have descended on Manchester for iCHSTM (that’s the International Congress for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine for those who don’t know). We are spending a week here talking about all things historically scientific. Now I realise I haven’t posted anything for months, but I do have a couple of stories I almost complete for you. So in the meantime I thought I would let you know all the animals that have been roaming through iCHSTM so far this week: Continue reading
This year I chose to spend Valentine’s Day with the dead. Well, the living were there as well, but we were definitely outnumbered by the dead. The Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL (a great place if you have never been, as long as you like zoological exhibits) held a special night dedicated to animals and love. And it is to them that I owe a debt of thanks for the contents of this post. I was struck by the number of folklore tales, or superstitions depending on your point of view, that feature animals in relation to women and their love lives. So today’s blog will give you some ideas of how animals can help (or hinder) you Continue reading
2013 – Year of the Snake
It has been quite a while since I wrote a post, so I thought I should get back to my tales for the past. And what better time than New Year. So, I may have missed the start of the calendar year, but with the sound of Chinese New Year fireworks still ringing in my ears and the remains of a Chinese lantern disintegrating in my garden, it’s still New Year for me.
A browse through my ever growing collection of nineteenth century natural history books suggests to me that snakes were of less interest to those who made a living from the collection and observation of animals. Continue reading
As well as mad animals, I want this blog to address animals and the mad. By this I mean the role animals were playing in nineteenth century asylums. Animals were used in experimentation to understand the physiology and pathology of disease. At the same time they were also features of asylum galleries as pets and entertainment. And what can be said of the asylum farm as part of a therapeutic approach? I hope to explore all these issues over the next few months (or perhaps years).
As a start I point you towards my latest blog article, on the Asylum Science blog here. It’s an introduction to the subject, showing the range of ways in which animals appear in the asylum histories.
I am going to be honest from the start of this post – I loathe spiders. I suppose I have a very mild form of arachnophobia – I can ignore the really little ones, but the big ones can leave me frozen where I stand. (Which is unhelpful if I am the only one at home!) And spiders usually feature in my nightmares. So imagine my ‘joy’ at finding a couple of large spiders sheltering from the rain in my flat this morning.
Whenever I mention my dislike of these creepy crawlies to anyone, the usual response I get is ‘well they are harmless and they catch flies – so what’s the problem?’ Well I say that is all well and good, but Continue reading