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
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.
Last week, an online media outlet (that does not need to be named here) posted a link to an article and entitled it ‘Our favourite animal that thinks its human moment…’. This struck a cord with me – and not because I believe that animals, on occasion, may/could think of themselves as human. Now this may not strictly have an historical element to the story, and because of that I have been quite undecided as to whether to share this as my first post. But, upon reflection, if I can’t write about it here, where can I write about it.
The story was about an elephant that paints. This is only one of many stories that are out there about animal art. But what struck me about this interpretation is that art was presented as something that defines us as human. Continue reading