Guinea Pig

Guinea pig UdineGiovanni Nanni (1487–1564)
(Giovanni de’ Ricamatori, Giovanni da Udine)

 

The earliest known written account of the guinea pig dates from 1547, in a description of the animal from Santo Domingo.
Based on excavations on West Indian islands, it seems that the animal must have been introduced by ceramic-making horticulturalists from South America to the Caribbean around 500 BC, and it was present in the Ostionoid period, for example, on Puerto Rico, long before the advent of the Spaniards.
The guinea pig was first described in the West in 1554 by the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.

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The Rhinoceros

rhinoceronPen and ink drawing, Albrecht Dürer, 1515


The Rhinoceros

In early 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque, governor of Portuguese India, sent ambassadors to Sultan Muzafar II, ruler of Cambay, to seek permission to build a fort on the island of Diu. The mission returned without an agreement, but diplomatic gifts were exchanged, including a rhinoceros.
Albuquerque decided to forward the gift, known by its Gujarati name of ganda, and its Indian keeper, to King Manuel I of Portugal.
On the Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, with two companion vessels, all loaded with spices, the animal sailed across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and north through the Atlantic, stopping briefly in MozambiqueSaint Helena and the Azores.
The rhinoceros was finally unloaded in Portugal, near the site where the Manueline Belém Tower was under construction. The tower was later decorated with gargoyles shaped as rhinoceros heads under its corbels.

A rhinoceros had not been seen in Europe since Roman times: it had become something of a mythical beast, occasionally conflated in bestiaries with the “monoceros” (unicorn), so the arrival of a living example created a sensation.
In the context of the Renaissance, it was a piece of Classical Antiquity which had been rediscovered, like a statue or an inscription.
The animal was examined by scholars and the curious, and letters describing the fantastic creature were sent to correspondents throughout Europe.
The earliest known image of it illustrates a poemetto by Florentine Giovanni Giacomo Penni, published in Rome fewer than eight weeks after its arrival in Lisbon.

It was housed in King Manuel’s menagerie at the Ribeira Palace in Lisbon, separate from his elephants and other large beasts at the Estaus Palace.

Manuel decided to give the rhinoceros as a gift to the Medici Pope Leo X. The King was keen to curry favour with the Pope, to maintain the papal grants of exclusive possession to the new lands that his naval forces had been exploring in the Far East since Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India around Africa in 1498.
The previous year, the Pope had been very pleased with Manuel’s gift of a white elephant, also from India, which the Pope had named Hanno.
Together with other precious gifts of silver plate and spices, the rhinoceros, with its new collar of green velvet decorated with flowers, embarked on December 1515 for the voyage to Rome.

The vessel passed near Marseille in early 1516. King Francis I of France was returning from Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence, and requested a viewing of the beast. The Portuguese vessel stopped briefly at an island off Marseilles, where the rhinoceros disembarked to be beheld by the King.

After resuming its journey, the ship was wrecked in a sudden storm as it passed through the narrows of Porto Venere, north of La Spezia on the coast of Liguria. The rhinoceros, chained and shackled to the deck to keep it under control, was unable to swim to safety and drowned.

The carcass of the rhinoceros was recovered near Villefranche and its hide was returned to Lisbon, where it was stuffed. Some reports say that the mounted skin was sent to Rome, arriving in February 1516, to be exhibited impagliato (Italian for “stuffed with straw”), although such a feat would have challenged 16th-century methods of taxidermy, which were still primitive. If a stuffed rhinoceros did arrive in Rome, its fate remains unknown: it might have been removed to Florence by the Medici, or destroyed in the 1527 sack of Rome. In any event, there was not the popular sensation in Rome that the living beast had caused in Lisbon, although a rhinoceros was depicted in contemporary paintings in Rome by Giovanni da Udine and Raphael.

Valentim Fernandes, a Moravian merchant and printer, had seen the rhinoceros in Lisbon shortly after it arrived and had written a letter describing it to a friend in Nuremberg in June 1515. A second letter of unknown authorship was sent from Lisbon to Nuremberg at around the same time, enclosing a sketch by an unknown artist, Albrecht Dürer.
Without ever seeing the rhinoceros himself, Dürer made two pen and ink drawings, and then a woodcut was carved from the second drawing

The German inscription on the woodcut, drawing largely from Pliny’s account, reads:

On the first of May in the year 1513 AD, the powerful King of Portugal, Manuel of Lisbon, brought such a living animal from India, called the rhinoceros. This is an accurate representation. It is the colour of a speckled tortoise, and is almost entirely covered with thick scales. It is the size of an elephant but has shorter legs and is almost invulnerable. It has a strong pointed horn on the tip of its nose, which it sharpens on stones. It is the mortal enemy of the elephant. The elephant is afraid of the rhinoceros, for, when they meet, the rhinoceros charges with its head between its front legs and rips open the elephant’s stomach, against which the elephant is unable to defend itself. The rhinoceros is so well-armed that the elephant cannot harm it. It is said that the rhinoceros is fast, impetuous and cunning.

Dürer’s woodcut is not an accurate representation of a rhinoceros. He depicts an animal with hard plates that cover its body like sheets of armour, with a gorget at the throat, a solid-looking breastplate, and rivets along the seams. He places a small twisted horn on its back, and gives it scaly legs and saw-like rear quarters.
None of these features is present in a real rhinoceros.
It is possible that a suit of armour was forged for the king’s exhibition of the rhinoceros versus an elephant in Portugal, and that these features depicted by Dürer are parts of the armour.
Alternatively, Dürer’s armour may represent the heavy folds of thick skin of an Indian rhinoceros, or, as with the other inaccuracies, may simply be misunderstandings or creative additions by Dürer.
Dürer also draws a scaly texture over the body of the animal, including the armour. This may be Dürer’s attempt to reflect the rough and almost hairless hide of the Indian rhinoceros, which has wart-like bumps covering its upper legs and shoulders.
On the other hand, his depiction of the texture may represent dermatitis induced by the rhinoceros’ close confinement during the four-month journey by ship from India to Portugal.


[Silvio Bedini (1917 – 2007)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/08/AR2007120801552.html]

 

 

The Rhinoceros
2015

A critically endangered male Sumatran rhino born in a US zoo has been flown to Indonesia to mate, as part of efforts to save his species. Eight-year-old Harapan, born in Cincinnati, was the last Sumatran rhino in the Western hemisphere.
The rhinos natural habitat in the forest of Sumatra is being devastated by illegal logging, and forest fires set by farmers clearing land for palm oil and pulp plantations
They are prized by poachers as their horns are used in [fake aphrodisiac scams dignified by the term] “Chinese medicine”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34695888

 

The ancient Sumatran rhino has been declared extinct in Malaysia,
following the fate of black rhinos in West Africa in 2011.

Central Africa’s northern white rhino has been reduced to four animals,
and conservationists say the more plentiful southern white rhinos are under unprecedented attack from poachers eager to sell the horns to Asian and Arab buyers.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34527409

 


After roaming free for millions of years, rhinos may be able to survive in Kenya only if they are protected behind fences in sanctuaries, a leading conservation charity has said.
Those that remain are increasingly vulnerable to extremely well-organised poaching gangs,  and people from inside the Kenya Wildlife Service have been found to be colluding with them.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/05/kenyan-rhinos-wild-poaching-sanctuaries

 

Just last week, preservationists at the Old Pejeta animal sanctuary in Kenya conceded that their one male and two female northern white rhinos will not reproduce naturally.
The animals were flown from the Czech zoo to the Kenyan conservancy in December 2009 in hopes that the natural environment there could be easier for them to breed in than in captivity.
Efforts will now be made to keep the species alive through in vitro fertilization. That experiment could take place with a southern white rhino surrogate mother. Southern white rhinos almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century, plunging down to only 20 at one point. Decades of conservation efforts gradually brought them back to life. 
The greater population of the southern white rhino could aid in reproduction of its northern counterpart. Scientists who have studied the critically endangered animal claim that dramatic population loss has reached the point at which inter-crossing the two subspecies will likely be necessary for the survival of the northern white rhino.
Geneticists view breeding rhinos across subspecies as a last resort of sorts, because of the possibility that the genes of the northern white rhino would not be preserved.
Other options are even less appealing. The six remaining animals in the subspecies would have to inbreed to produce any pure-bred offspring. But the negative effects of inbreeding, like reduced fertility and higher infant mortality rates, decrease the likelihood that the population of the subspecies could rebound this way.
“One can always believe in miracles but everything leads us to believe that hope they would reproduce naturally has gone,” Dvur Kralove Zoo spokeswoman Jana Mysliveckova told Agence France-Presse.


http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2014/1215/Only-five-white-rhinos-left-on-earth.-Can-this-species-be-saved-video

 

Beasts

The Sloth-Bear

A natural history drawing of a Sloth Bear produced  by a local artist under the supervision of Francis Buchanan (later Buchanan-Hamilton, 1762-1829) while he was Superintendent of the Institution for Promoting the Natural History of India at Barrackpore

 

— Should this be true, that Beasts were Automata or Machines, they could have no Sense or Perception of Pleasure or Pain, and consequently no Cruelty could be exercis’d towards them; which is contrary to the doleful Significations they make when beaten or tormented,
and is contrary to the common Sense of Mankind, all Men naturally pitying them, as apprehending them to have such Sense and Feeling of Pain and Misery as themselves have . . .
Besides, having the same members and Organs of Sense as we have, it is very probable they have the same Sensations and Perceptions with us . . .
and at last seemingly contrary to the Scripture too: Proverbs 12:10 . . .  A good Man is merciful to his Beast; which is the true Exposition of it  . . . .

John Ray (1627 – 1705), who laid the foundations of botany and zoology in Britain

 

Study Of A Cucumber, With Its Leaves

jacques-le-moyne-(de-morgues)-a-cucumber,-with-its-leaves-(study)
Jacques le Moyne de Morgues (1533 – 1588
)

 

Systema Naturae

Sjupp dSjupp

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was born the eldest son of parish priest, and amateur botanist, Nils Ingermarsson Linnaeus, and Christina Linnaea.
The family name ‘Linnaeus’ was chosen by Nils as a requirement for enrolling at university, and was based on the Swedish for lime tree (lind) in honour of a large lime tree that grew on their land.
Linnaeus’s brother Samuel became an expert on bees.
Although expected to follow his father into the priesthood, Linnaeus showed a keen interest in medicine and botany.

In 1746/7, Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik gave Linnaeus a raccoon (Procyon lotor), known as Sjupp, to describe.
In a paper published for the Royal Academy of Science in 1747 Linnaeus described Sjupp as ‘…tremendously obstinate. If anyone led him on a rope and tugged at it, he would immediately lie down and throw his arms and legs about defiantly…’ and noted Sjupp’s preference for ‘…eggs, almonds, raisins, sugared cakes, sugar and fruit of every kind…’ and his dislike of ‘…anything with vinegar on it, or sauerkraut, or raw or boiled fish’.
He had a watercolor of Sjupp hung in his summerhouse.

Linnaeus
: The Compleat Naturalist
by Wilfrid Blunt
Wilfrid Blunt was Senior Drawing Master at Eton College. An Associate of the Royal College of Art and a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, he authored a number of biographies and books on European art and botany. His The Art of Botanical Illustration has become a standard work of reference. He died in 1987.
William Stearn’s appendix on Linnean classification provides a concise survey of the basics necessary for understanding Linnaeus’s work.

Linnaeus was of pivotal importance in the Age of Enlightenment. Though an adventurous traveler, keen collector, zoologist, and geologist, he loved botany most of all. The son of a pastor, he believed he was chosen by God to resolve the jumbled classification of the natural world. Through his Systema Naturae, first published in 1735, he brought order to all recorded knowledge about living things, distinguishing and naming 7,700 plants and 4,400 animals in his lifetime.
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7254.html

Earth Day

Dronte_The Last Dodo 17th_Century17th-century illustration of a dodo

The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is a bird that lived only on the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Its closest genetic relative was the Rodrigues solitaire, now also extinct, the two forming the subfamily Raphinae of the family of doves.
Mauritius was discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1505 , but it was the Dutch who established permanent habitation on the island.

The dodo had no fear of people and was easy prey because it could not fly. It lived on fruits and nuts, and built nests on the ground.
The name Dodo, is from an old Portugese word, doudo, which means “slow down”.

The first settlers brought animals with them not native to Mauritius.
There were, for example, pigs, monkeys, and rats who plundered the birds’ nests, while men felled the forests where the birds lived.

The last widely accepted record of a dodo sighting is the 1662 report by shipwrecked mariner Volkert Evertsz of the Dutch ship Arnhem.
“These animals on our coming up to them stared at us and remained quiet where they stand, not knowing whether they had wings to fly away or legs to run off, and suffering us to approach them as close as we pleased. Amongst these birds were those which in India they call Dod-aersen (being a kind of very big goose); these birds are unable to fly, and instead of wings, they merely have a few small pins, yet they can run very swiftly. We drove them together into one place in such a manner that we could catch them with our hands, and when we held one of them by its leg, and that upon this it made a great noise, the others all on a sudden came running as fast as they could to its assistance, and by which they were caught and made prisoners also.”

The last known dodo was killed less than 100 years after the species had been found.
Its extinction was not immediately noticed, and some considered it to be a mythical creature.

http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dronte

see also: https://secretgardening.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/the-american-frontier/

Falling Stars

meteor‘Meteor seen over Hewit Common near York’ 
by Nathaniel Pigott  (1725–1804)

 

The Great Fireball of 1783

In the summer of 1783 the Montgolfier brothers flew the first successful hot-air balloon at Annonay in France, creating a craze for ballooning which swept Parisian society, and Henry Cavendish and Joseph Priestley continued their independent experiments on ‘inflammable air’ [hydrogen] and the chemical composition of water.

Sir Joseph Banks,  President of the Royal Society for over 41 years, was summering in Lincolnshire while Charles Blagden kept him apprised of scientific goings-on, opened Banks’s mail for him, and marshalled  the traffic at Banks’s house at 32 Soho Square – a continual back-and-forth flow of books, drawings, journals, newspapers, plant specimens and people

That same summer a large meteor was seen over England on the night of August 18th, passing rapidly over Scotland and travelling down the east coast of England – it was seen at Lincolnshire, where it appeared to break up, but the core continued, still blazing, more or less on its former trajectory– and at Ramsgate.  It was also seen from Brussels and France; and there was an unconfirmed sighting as far south as Rome. Blagden and Banks between them gathered reports of the event from across Britain and the Continent to attempt to estimate the meteor’s size, altitude, and speed; it was visible for a little under a minute, its altitude was estimated variously between 50 and 60 miles, it appeared about as large as the Moon’s disc (Blagden reckoned its diameter at roughly half a mile) and its speed was calculated at 20 miles per second.

These calculations of the meteor’s altitude and speed are remarkably plausible – and if Blagden’s estimate of its size is even marginally accurate then humanity can breathe a two-hundred-year’s delayed sigh of relief at its close shave.  Blagden didn’t see it like that, because he didn’t think meteors were physical bodies but electrical phenomena in the upper atmosphere.

When he heard that the Astronomer Royal, Nevill Maskelyne, was sending out queries of his own for an investigation of the comet, he wrote scoffingly to Banks:

‘I hear many years ago Professor [John] Winthrop, of Cambridge [Harvard] in new England, sent a paper to the R.S. containing a circumstantial theory of meteors as bodies revolving in very excentric elipses round our earth, & producing light by their effect upon our atmosphere.  This paper it was not thought proper to print; but most likely [Sir John] Pringle took his ideas from it, which Maskelyne is now going to hash up warm.  If every falling star be such a body, and it seems impossible to draw a line of distinction between them & the larger meteors, we are in high luck indeed that some of them, out of such an immense number, do not now & then miss their way, or get entangled in our atmosphere, and give us a smack.  That this good world may be preserved from such misfortunes is the hearty wish of

Your affectionate

C.B.’

Blagden argued in his published paper that it was precisely because meteors were seen so frequently, yet never felt actually to hit, that they weren’t orbiting bodies like comets.  His crowd-sourced data was remarkably reliable; and from his description of the meteor you would swear he imagined it as a solid body, but he’s forced away from that conclusion because he can’t find any evidence for the logical endpoint of that line of thought: namely, the meteor’s impact.

Crowd-sourcing observations in this way was an important tool, continues to be important to modern science, and is crucial to the history of science.

Blagden’s dismissive mention of John Winthrop, Hollis Professor of natural philosophy and Astronomy at Harvard is intriguing, in this context.  Winthrop’s theory that meteors were of extra-terrestrial origin was substantially correct, and his paper, which the Society hadn’t seen fit to publish at the time, is still in the archives; but he was also responsible for one of the first attempts to treat earthquakes as geological phenomena.
Like meteors and comets, these had largely been regarded prior to the scientific revolution as manifestations of divine wrath or providential omens; Winthrop’s study of the effects of the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which had also been felt in New England, attempted to measure the damage it caused and to quantify the forces involved, and he published the resulting lecture in Boston as well as sending an account to the Royal Society.

blogs.royalsociety.org/history-of-science/2013/10/16/crowd-sourcing/

Famous contributing authors to Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which was established in 1665, include Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and Charles Darwin.

Sir Joseph Banks took part in the Voyage of HMS Endeavour, exploration of Botany Bay with Captain James Cooke.

 

Study of a Jay

jlmdm j
Jacques le Moyne de Morgues (c. 1533–1588) accompanied the French expedition of Jean Ribault and René Laudonnière. Ribault explored the mouth of the St. Johns River in Florida and erected a stone monument there before leading the party north and establishing a settlement on Parris Island, South Carolina. He then sailed back to France for supplies while Laudonnière took charge of the colony. Finding conditions unfavorable on Parris Island, Laudonnière and the others eventually moved back to Florida where they founded Fort Caroline on the St. Johns Bluff.
The good relations initially established with the Indian tribes inhabiting the territories around the settlement site at St. Johns soon soured, in addition to which various members of the French party became disaffected, and revolted against their leaders. The final coup de grâce came a year later, when a Spanish force from the Spanish colony of St. Augustine thirty miles to the south, attacked Laudonniere’s stronghold at Fort Caroline. The Spanish, under the leadership of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, stormed the colony and killed most of the Huguenots, though Laudonnière, Le Moyne and about two dozen others escaped and were eventually rescued to England. Having lost their way on the return, they sailed half starved into Swansea Bay, England in mid-November 1565, and finally reached Paris early in 1566.

All but one of Le Moyne’s original drawings were reportedly destroyed in the Spanish attack on Fort Caroline; most the images attributed to him are engravings created by the Belgian printer and publisher Theodor de Bry, which are based on recreations Le Moyne produced from memory. These reproductions, distributed by Le Moyne in printed volumes, are some of the earliest images of European colonization in the New World to be circulated, and his detailed account of the voyage, Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americai provincia Gallis acciderunt, was published in 1591, and clearly indicates that it was the King who instructed the artist to accompany the expedition as official recording artist and cartographer.

He ended his career as a highly regarded botanical artist in Elizabethan London, where his patrons included Sir Walter Raleigh and Lady Mary Sidney. “The six documented works by the artist in private hands are exquisite gouaches which embody and combine in a most original manner three diverse artistic traditions: the first is that of manuscript illumination in Le Moyne’s native France; the second is the recording of exotic and native flora, fauna and cultures, which was the artistic expression of the late sixteenth-century fascination with exploration and scientific investigation; and the third is the purely aesthetic love of flowers and gardens which was so apparent in Elizabethan court culture.”

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[Jerald T. Milanich: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerald_T._Milanich]

 

 

Sweet of Sent

Charles Plumier (1646 – 1704)

Charles Plumier (1646 – 1704)

“Of their fruits Ananas is reckoned one of the best: In taste like an Apricocke, in shew a farre off like an Artichoke, but without prickles, very sweet of sent.”
Samuel Purchas (1577? – 1626)
Purchas His Pilgrimage: or Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages and Places discovered, from the Creation unto this Present

Nothing To Save

Pietro Visconte’s World Map 1321, from Marino Samuolo’s Liber secretorum fidelium crusisPietro Visconte’s World Map 1321,  from Marino Samuolo’s Liber secretorum fidelium crucis

There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.
D.H. Lawrence