Scientific Illustrations in the Freshwater Biological Association Collections

In November 2015, after 6 years of working on Carl Linnaeus’s manuscripts, I began a new job as Information Scientist for the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) on the shores of Windermere. This entails looking after the library, archives, and biological specimens held by the FBA, all of which relate in one way or another to freshwater research and science, ranging from algae, to fish, invertebrates, pollution, limnology, and hydrology. The FBA was founded in 1929, and I have been adjusting to the move from early modern to more contemporary, mostly 20th-century records. After a period of settling in, learning the ropes, and dealing with the aftermath of Storm Desmond in December (which flooded a number of boxes containing zooplankton, phytoplankton, and fish scales), I have been ferreting away in the archives, looking at the notebooks, drawings, graphs, maps, datasets, and correspondence left by FBA scientists. I have been struck by the amount of material there is, waiting to be studied by historians of science. In particular, I have been struck by the importance of drawings, maps and graphs, amongst other scientific visual illustrations, that would appeal to art historians. Three short examples will show the quality and variety of material of particular interest to readers of this website.

During his time at the FBA, in the early 1930s, Harold Philip Moon (1919-1982) carried out pioneer work on the littoral invertebrates. His archives comprises detailed data collection, annotated maps of Lake District waters such as Windermere and Ullswater, and general notes on biology, compiled as a student at Kings College, Cambridge between 1929 and 1932, many of which include fine pencil and ink drawings.

 

Fig. 1

Fig. 1. 1913 map of the shore of Windermere with detailed annotation by H.P. Moon, 1950s?

Thomas T. Macan (1910-1985) had a distinguished career as an entomologist, focusing on aquatic insects, which he studied for most of his life at the FBA from 1935 to 1976. His fieldwork notebooks are meticulously drawn up. Macan produced some of the identification keys of freshwater insects that were published by the FBA, including the drawings, the originals of which are in the FBA archives. Macan was clearly attentive to the quality and practices of scientific illustrations. While investigating a map chest the other week, I stumbled across a set of 18 boards (approximately A1 in format) entitled ‘Methods of Illustrating Figures and Diagrams by T.T. Macan’. These boards, produced in April 1976, are sets of instructions for scientific illustrations, looking at contrast, line shading, symbols, graphs, histograms, maps and how to draw types of apparatus.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2. ‘Methods of Illustrating Figures and Diagrams by T.T. Macan’: board explaining contrast, using the work of John Lund

John Lund (1912-2015) and Hilda Canter-Lund (1922-2007) were algologists who both worked at the FBA for most of their career. Together they compiled Freshwater Algae: their microscopic world explored (1995), which contained Hilda Canter-Lund’s beautiful photographs of microscopic algae. John Lund was also responsible for the Fritsch Collection of illustrations of freshwater, brackish and terrestrial Algae (for more information on this collection, see http://www.fba.org.uk/fritsch-collection).

The FBA holds a rich collection of unstudied archives, of particular interest to historians of science and art historians. Some of the collections can be found on Archives Hub (http://archiveshub.ac.uk/contributors/freshwaterbiologicalassociation.html). For more information, please contact me at icharmantier@fba.org.uk

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One Response to Scientific Illustrations in the Freshwater Biological Association Collections

  1. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Year 2, Vol. #49 | Whewell's Ghost

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