Officers & Council 2017
The Council of the Society for the History of Natural History consists of the Officers and nine Councillors. Officers stand for election at the Annual General Meetings of the Society and Councillors serve terms of three years. Council may also co-opt members of Council to serve.
Dr Arthur MacGregor
Mrs Lynda Brooks
Mr William Noblett
Professor Peter Davis
Honorary Meetings Secretary
Ms Gina Douglas
The President, Officers, and:
- Mr Jack Ashby +
- Dr Helen Cowie #
- Dr Clemency Fisher +
- Mr E. Geoffrey Hancock *
- Mr Matthew Holmes *
- Dr Anna Marie Roos *
- Ms Louise Tomsett #
# elected 2014
* elected 2015
- Dr Isabelle Charmantier (Membership)
- Ms Jo Hatton (Development)
- Ms Miranda Lowe (Membership)
- Mrs Malgosia Nowak-Kemp (Representatives)
- Ms Felicity Roberts (Book Reviews)
- Ms Elaine Shaughnessy (Website and Newsletter)
- Professor Ray Williams (Small Research Fund)
Representatives are appointed by Council and are able to attend Council meetings. Their term of appointment is initially for three years, with an annual review by Council. This can be extended as approved by Council.
See the International Representatives‘ page for further details.
The administrative business of the Society is the responsibility of the Officers, supported by contributors. These contributors attend Council meetings as guests to consult on issues relevant to their Society activities and receive Council guidance.
Officer and Council Member Biographies
Mr Jack Ashby
Jack is the Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London, with strategic overview of their varied activities – developing the Museum as both a valuable academic resource and an excellent public venue, while caring for the collections responsibly. A large area of his work is to find ways to integrate the historic natural history collection and museum space into current academic teaching, research and public engagement programmes across the sciences, arts and humanities, often through exhibitions.
Jack is particularly interested in the natural history of Australia and its mammals (where he regularly undertakes fieldwork), as well as the role of museum collections in the history of the teaching of and public engagement with zoology. Jack is a long-standing committee member and trustee of the Natural Sciences Collections Association. He is heavily involved in UCL Museums’ online engagement activities through blogs and other social media platforms, and for a long time oversaw the Department’s marketing activities on and off-line.
De Helen Cowie
Helen Cowie is a Lecturer in the Department of History, University of York and a member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. Her research focuses on the cultural history of science with a particular focus on the history of animals.
Professor Peter Davis
Peter Davis trained as a marine biologist, oceanographer and ecologist, and worked in conservation organisations and national parks before moving into the museum world as a specialist curator. Following some twenty years in museums – his last post being Deputy Curator of the Hancock Museum – he joined the Department of Archaeology of Newcastle University, setting up the MA in Museum Studies there in 1992. Following University re-organisation he helped to found the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) as a distinct unit in the newly-created School of Arts and Cultures. He became the first Head of School of Arts and Cultures, relinquishing this position in 2005 to take up a part-time role at the University of Gothenburg, assisting in the development of museum and heritage programmes there. He continues to play an active role in ICCHS, albeit in a part-time capacity. As Chair of the Natural History Society of Northumbria he played an active role in the re-development of the (now) Great North Museum: Hancock, which is a major resource for the ICCHS’ teaching and research programmes.
Ms Gina Douglas
Gina Douglas has served as Meetings Secretary for the Society for the History of Natural History since 1989. She is also the Honorary Archivist and Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. As Librarian and Archivist of the Linnean Society from 1983-2007, she was closely involved with the creation of the online library catalogue, the Linnaeus Link Project, and the digitization of the Linnaean biological collections, including his correspondence and annotated works. She was also involved in initiating the on-going project to scanning the herbarium and the correspondence of James Edward Smith and make those available online. Since her retirement, she has returned to the Linnean Society on a volunteer basis. She has contributed to numerous scholarly publications on Linnaeus and Smith and is one of the founding members of the European Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ group and the Linnaeus Link Partnership. She also serves as a Trustee for The Ray Society, is on the Library and Information Services Committee of the Freshwater Biological Association and is a long standing member of the British Ecological Society.
Professor Peter Davis
Peter Davis is Professor of Museology in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University, UK. He is a long-standing member of the Society for the History of Natural History, has served on Council and acted as Meetings Secretary and Book Reviews Editor. Peter’s research interests include the history of museums; the history of natural history and environmentalism; the interaction between heritage and concepts of place; and ecomuseums. He is the author of several books including Museums and the Natural Environment (1996), Ecomuseums: a sense of place (1999; 2nd edition 2011) and (with Christine Jackson) Sir William Jardine: a life in natural history (2001). He is a member of the Editorial Board of the series ‘Heritage Matters’, published by Boydell and Brewer and has recently co-edited two volumes in the series, namely Making Sense of Place and Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage. He is also editor of Museum History Journal which is published by Left Coast Press.
Dr Clemency Fisher
Clemency Fisher is responsible for the use, curation and management of the collections of vertebrate animals at World Museum Liverpool. Her specialist interests include: The history of 19th century natural history collecting, rare and extinct birds, bird bones in archaeological excavations in the North West and the historical vertebrate fauna of Merseyside. She is also interested in the Museum’s founder, Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, whose bird and mammal collections formed the basis of Liverpool’s first public museum. Current research focuses on the English explorer-naturalist John Gilbert in Australia, 1838-1845 and his membership of the First Ludwig Leichhardt Expedition of 1844-1845.
Mr E. Geoffrey Hancock
During a career of curating natural history collections two main strands of interest have developed. Firstly, entomological research has concentrated mainly on European and Neotropical forest ecosystems plus Scottish island faunas. Secondly, research on the history of museums and collections began with establishing the first Collection Research Unit in the Northwest of England with results published in 1981. This grew into the Federation of Natural History Collections Research (FENSCORE) covering the whole of the UK and is now a web-based resource for tracing collections in museums. At The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, the responsibility of curating William Hunter’s eighteenth century insect collection initiated the award in 2004-5 of a research grant from The Leverhulme Trust. This has resulted in and continues to produce publications. The contents of Hunter’s museum bequeathed to the University of Glasgow are a key resource for investigating the Enlightenment. A book on the subject was recently published, William Hunter’s World: the Art and Science of Eighteenth Century Collecting (Hancock, Pearce & Campbell, 2015, Ashgate).
Dr Arthur MacGregor
Arthur MacGregor was a curator in the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum for over twenty-five years. His responsibilities and interests span the period from the Roman empire to the nineteenth century and his publication record includes volumes on the Ashmolean’s Roman engraved gems, Anglo-Saxon and Migration Period antiquities as well as the Museum’s founding collection from the seventeenth century; he has published widely on the history of the Museum and has researched extensively on its archive collections, as well as writing popular guides to the Ashmolean in general and to its medieval, Tudor and Stuart collections. He has a long-standing interest in the interface between man and the animal world and also on the history of collections, on which subjects he has published numerous articles and books. Having served in the past as Director of the Society of Antiquaries and of the British Archaeological Association, he is currently a Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute; he is also a member of the Treasure Valuation Committee, of the scientific committee of the Paris-based journal Anthropozoologica, and of the museum and artefacts committee of the Linnean Society. He is co-general editor of The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo (Royal Collection) and co-founding editor of the Journal of the History of Collections (OUP). His most recent publication Curiosity and Enlightenment was published in 2008.
Dr Anna Marie Roos
Anna Marie Roos is a Reader in the history of science and medicine at the University of Lincoln. She came to Lincoln in 2013 from the University of Oxford, where she was the Lister Research Fellow. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. She studies the early Royal Society, as well as natural history, chemistry, and medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries, and publishes not only as a professional historian but also as an advisor to taxonomists. Her scientific and historical work has been featured in Nature News, Wellcome History, the Guardian and the New York Times. Roos’ fourth book,” The Lister Sisters: Women and the Art of the “Scientific Revolution,” is forthcoming with Bodleian Library Press (2017). Her popular writing has appeared (inter alia) in the Appendix, Art and Antiques, Endeavour, and Natural History Magazine, and the Royal Society Blog: The Repository. She has given public lectures at Tate Modern, the Royal Society, and the Museum for the History of Science, Oxford, and curated exhibits at the Royal Society and the Bodleian Library. Roos has also been interviewed by the BBC’s Radio 4 Today and In Our Time programmes, and hosted a television documentary about Newtonian alchemy for National Geographic. She is in love with all things history of science.
Ms Louise Tomsett
Louise is a Senior Curator of Mammals at the Natural History Museum in London. Her role is extremely varied and includes curating and developing the collection, research collaborations in a wide range of scientific and historical subjects and enhancing physical and digital access to collections and their associated information. She began her museum career working as a volunteer on several projects at the NHM in the Zoological and Palaeontological collections, and at the Zoological Society of London. She then gained a permanent position at the NHM, firstly as a behind the scenes tour guide and assistant curator across Zoological collections, then as a full-time curator in Mammals. She is a member of the Society for Preservation of Natural History Collections, Natural Sciences Collections Association, Anglo-Indonesian Society, Society for Wildlife Forensic Science and has been a member of SHNH for many years. She has been extensively involved in the Kingston University Museum Lives archival project and consequent research. The project aims to archive otherwise lost scientific knowledge, techniques and social attitudes. Her core interests are Zoology and Ecology but she also has a strong interest in historic collections, exploration and expeditions, history of specimen preparation for display and research, and use of historic collections for multi-disciplinary research such as wildlife conservation, social history, illustration and media. Having recently been involved in work in Kalimantan, her interests are also widening to South-East Asia.
Co-opted Members of Council
Dr Isabelle Charmantier
Isabelle first became involved with SHNH during her PhD on 17th-century ornithology (2005-2008). She was Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, from 2009 to 2013, where she worked on the project ‘Re-Writing the System of Nature: Carl Linnaeus’s Writing Technologies’. From 2013 to 2015 she was employed by the Linnean Society of London to catalogue Linnaeus’s manuscripts. She is currently Information Scientist for the Freshwater Biological Association in Far Sawrey, Ambleside. She was the book reviews editor for Archives of Natural History from 2011 to 2014. Her research interests include the history of early modern natural history, and more specifically the history of ornithology, the history of the book and writing technologies, and Carl Linnaeus.
Ms Jo Hatton
Jo is Keeper of Natural History at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in South East London where she is responsible for the development, research and interpretation of this diverse collection. She started her career as a curator, documenting and cataloguing Natural History specimens at Liverpool Museum and went on to curate similar material at the National Museum of Wales, Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, before taking up her current post. As a long standing committee member for the Biology Curators Group and the Natural Sciences Collections Association, Jo held the position of Meetings Secretary. She is currently a council member of the London Natural History Society and has been a member of SHNH for many years. Current research interests include the history of taxidermy, particularly the little known Hampshire taxidermist and naturalist, Edward Hart (most of his remaining taxidermy cases and notebooks are housed at the Horniman Museum), as well as the early entomological collection of the museum’s founder Frederick J. Horniman.
Felicity completed an MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies in 2010 before beginning her PhD on Sir Hans Sloane and early modern practices of observing and representing the natural world in 2012, in both cases in the English Department of King’s College London, in conjunction with the British Museum. Her research interests cover English natural history and the literary and visual arts during the long eighteenth century, 18thC aesthetics, women’s involvement in natural history, widows, the history of the senses, the history of collections, Sir Hans Sloane, Mary Delany and Charlotte Smith.
Ms Elaine Shaughnessy
Elaine has a long association with SHNH and has served on Council and acted as the Representative’s Co-ordinator (1994 – 2006). She is a currently Newsletter Editor and Website Coordinator. She is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and was awarded a Linnean Tercentenary Medal in 2008. Elaine is additionally an Ambassador for the World Land Trust and a member of the IUCN Commission for Education and Communication. Roles have included Head of Development for the Linnean Society of London, Head of Publishing for IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature and Editor for Editions Alecto, where she worked on the Banksian natural history collections from Cook’s first voyage in HMS Endeavour (1768-1771) held at the Natural History Musuem, London.
Professor Ray Williams
Ray Williams is a zoologist working as a veterinary parasitologist professionally, and as a marine biologist for fun. Research in experimental science stimulated an interest in historical, biographical and bibliographical aspects of natural history. Current projects include the life and work of John Van Voorst (scientific publisher), Philip Henry Gosse (naturalist and artist), Thomas Hincks (zoophyte taxonomist), John Henry Gurney senior (ornithologist), Ernest Edward Tyzzer (oncologist and parasitologist), and Thomas Alan Stephenson (marine ecologist and artist). An SHNH member since 1983, Ray has previously served on Council for 1986-89 and 2006-09; initiated the organization of the Easter Conference for 1989 on Sources and Techniques for Biographical and Bibliographical Research; and received the society’s Founders’ Medal in 2009. In 1991, he was chief editor of the Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Coelenterate Biology; in 2006 revised, for the British Library, the eighth edition of John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors; and is currently a member of the editorial board of Zoological Bibliography. In 2006, he was appointed a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Beijing; in 2008, was conferred an ScD by the University of Cambridge for his parasitology research; and in 2009 was elected to the Lasher History Lectureship of the American Association of Avian Pathologists.