Darwins’ Doodles

Charles Darwin was born this day in 1809. A manuscript of his 1859 Origin of Species is found to have doodles by some of his children, especially George and Francis.


Their work is being curated by the American Museum of Natural History and some of the doodles are at brainpickings.org.


One shows an early view of Brexit:



Some of the doodles mixed botanical objects with the then topical infantry:


while others were more conventional.




Lubaina Himid has become the first black woman to win the Turner Prize. She was born in Zanzibar and now lives in Preston. Her work challenges racial politics and the legacy of slavery.

The judges for the prize praised her “uncompromising tackling of issues including colonial history and how racism persists today”.


Her work uses many satires about the upper class, with the legacy of the colonies and how her own generation experiences racism. She is often compared to Hogarth, especially for her picture ‘a fashionable marriage’.



Anthropologists also continue to speculate about the taxonomy:

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and development of human groups:


Pitchers and Crappers



  • Three species of pitcher plant, Nepenthes lowii, N. rajah and N. macrophylla, all produce modified leaves which serve as tree shrew toilets They capture nutrients from animal faeces in mountain habitats where insects (the diet of most pitcher plants) are scarce.
  • drawing by C. Thorogood, Oxford – New Phytologist website.


Meanwhile, in Chelsea, a plumber named Thomas Crapper designed a classic wc structure.  th-42.jpeg          220px-Thomas_Crapper_Toilet_Horta_Museum_Branding.jpg

His King’s Road shop is in the opening sequence of Joseph Losey’s 1963 film, The Servant.

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‘Bloomsbury Scientists’

This is the 300th blog at scienceandartblog.com, a series of ideas that I began over three years ago. And I’m pleased that this one is to announce the publication today of the book that I’ve been writing through those same three years.


Bloomsbury Scientists: science and art in the wake of Darwin is published by UCL Press and is available through their website as well as amazon.co.uk ,  blackwells.co.uk  , and bookshops. It is free as an e-book, £15.00 paperback and £30 hardback.

Here are portraits of some of the characters in my story. To confirm their identity you have to read the book.

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On September 7th Nature magazine said the book: ‘paints a group picture of biologist energised by Darwinism, including Ray Lankester and Marie Stopes, rubbing shoulders with cross-disciplinary intellects such as Roger Fry and H.G. Wells. Although marred by the intrusion of eugenics, this heady era saw the rise of fields from ecology to genetics.’


Last week, Nature (vol. 544, page 417) reported on a fossilised creature with huge pincers resembling can-openers, a hinged two-piece shell and more than 50 pairs of legs.  C. Aria and J-B. Caron call this Tokummia katalepsis and argue that its evolution led to insects, crustaceans, millipedes and centipedes. They are among the few fossils that show early links between these familiar groups.

The creature lived about 507 million years ago during the Cambrian period, It was about 10cm long and would have been found walking on the seafloor.

The creature was about 10cm long and would have been found walking on the seafloor.
 Photograph: Jean-Bernard Caron. Copyright: Royal Ontario Museum

Prey would have been caught by the animal using its two large pincers. It would then have been passed to the animal’s many legs under the body which have spine-like features at their base which may have crushed the prey. This could then have been brought back to the mandibles and be cut into small pieces to help digestion.


Photograph: Lars Fields. Copyright: Royal Ontario Museum

This is an artist’s reconstruction of Tokummia katalepsis showing a pair of large pincers to capture prey, with much of the multisegmented body protected by a broad carapace. The small mandibles and subdivided, spine-like bases of the legs were critical characters for resolving the evolutionary significance of Tokummia.


Mount Katahdin (Maine) was painted in 1939 by Marsden Hartley, and is soon on show in a new exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


The show opens with an inspired stroke of scene-setting: a mural-size film projection of waves crashing against a bleak stretch of Maine’s Atlantic coastline.


The artist had conflicted feelings about his spiritual home at Lewiston. His father was an English immigrant and worked in a textile mill. His mother died when he was eight. Hartley was inconsolable and stayed that way. The earliest picture in the show, “Shady Brook ” from 1907, is a landscape in a wispy Romantic style and may depict a scene he recalled from childhood.


“Log Jam, Penobscot Bay,” is from 1940 (Detroit Institute of Arts) and hints at other plants of the Maine landscape, long extinct.

These are the famous Early Devonian fossils from the cliffs where New England faces the Atlantic. Psilophyton grew there 400 million years ago.

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A well-known Hartley figure is more recent and is on show at the Met:




Old Fish

A fossil of one of the first life-forms has been found in China:_93872527_xx65--269.jpg

Saccorhytus was covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles. It probably moved around by wriggling.

This electron microscope image has inspired a Cambridge artist to create a more detailed image:


In Nature magazine Simon Conway Morris et al refer the 540 million year old specimens to the Deuterostomes, common ancestors of the vertebrates (backboned animals such as fish). Saccorhytus was about a millimetre in size, and is thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed.