A Glass Menagerie

The different talents of two nineteenth century observers of nature are celebrated by Drew Harvell, an invertebrate zoologist at Cornell University, in a feature article of the NY Times, D1, 7th May 2013.

Leopold Blaschka was a Czech glass designer working in Dresden in the 1860s and his models of flowers and sea creatures are still valued highly by collectors.

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The ideas for these artefacts came from Philip Henry Gosse, whose 1860 British Sea-Anemones and Corals contained brilliant illustrations of the marine life of SW England. His drawings were used by Blaschka to model the glass structures with their cheerful colours. Such rich diversity of sea life 150 years ago is something that Drew Harvell fears will never be repeated.

250px-Philip_Henry_Gosse_-_British_Sea-Anemone_and_Corals_(Plate_V)Gosse visited Alabama in the 1840s and was overawed by the power of the religious celebrants, if not with the brutal treatment of slaves. When he returned to Devon he became a devout member of the Plymouth Brethren and continued to describe marine animals, work which led to his election to The Royal Society.

Blaschka also visited North America to sell his glass figures. On the journey out his ship was becalmed, giving him a chance to see the rich diversity of marine life by peering over the side.

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