note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.
Nature has inspired humanity for as long as stars have shone in the night sky and the orbit of the earth has caused the seasons. Long before Linnaeus assigned official names and categories to all the living things, many other people gave organisms names and wondered about their relatedness. Millennia before we understood the structure and implications of DNA or first saw our own planet from space, people pondered the vastness of a universe they could only imagine and the complexity of life they undoubtedly knew they could only begin to grasp.
Although nature can be daunting, erratic, and bogglingly complex to analyze, this same recondite, awesome nature has inspired portrayals in many forms of art. One of those, written by Goethe, would enable Siegmund von Hausegger a century later to complete this symphony harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. Read more
Although Anna Atkins was commemorated in a Google Doodle on her birthday in 2015, raising awareness of her work continues. She was born this day 218 years ago. During the 1840s and 1850s, working with botanist Anne Dixon, she documented most of the ferns and algae in Britain; this research was published in many volumes with some of the first photographs taken by women. Both Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon had learned most of what they knew on their own, not from attending institutions or through formal study, but that was somewhat typical of the time. As a result, it might be a mistake for us to assume that they felt marginalized or alone. As Rachel Carson later put it,
Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. Read more
By the time he reached middle age, life had brought the Scottish botanist, landscape architect, and city planner John Loudon (1783-1843) an abundance of both triumph and trouble. He had traveled in northern Europe, learned French, German, and Italian, and published encyclopedias of gardening and agriculture. Thus he was worldly and intelligent and successful. Since he was a bachelor, these qualities certainly made him an excellent catch and a potentially ideal husband and father.
Health problems, however, Read more