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Society for the History of Natural History


POSTPONED to #SHNH2021: Pioneer Naturalists: Champions of Conservation and Environmental Engagement, Cambridge, UK

POSTPONED to #SHNH2021: Pioneer Naturalists: Champions of Conservation and Environmental Engagement, Cambridge, UK

June 1, 2021 09:00am - June 4, 2021 05:00pm

This two day international meeting will be held in 2021 in association with the Museum Of Zoology, University of Cambridge, and will explore the history and role of naturalists (and others) as pioneers in biological, geological and landscape conservation, protection, environmental advocacy and engagement in its broadest sense. The meeting will be held in at the Museum of Zoology.

Environmental awareness is not a new phenomenon. With its roots in the 17th and 18th centuries, the term “conservation” came into use in the 19th century alongside the passage of some of the first conservation legislation, establishment of nature conservation societies and what later became known as “nature reserves”.

Many naturalists made the transition from collectors to protectors, expressing concerns about the destructive influence and long-term impact of human activities on the natural world, using their knowledge and awareness to become early advocates for nature conservation, the preservation and protection of species, habitats and landscapes, advocating the need for greater environmental protection both on their own patch and farther afield. In doing so, they laid the foundations for our modern conservation, environmental movements and protections in the centuries ahead.

John Muir c.1902. John Muir (1838–1914) was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States of America.

This meeting will explore a range of topics including:

  • Pioneers in environmental awareness and engagement
  • Collecting versus conservation
  • Biodiversity loss and extinction
  • The establishment of wildlife protection legislation, nature reserves and wildlife conservation programmes
  • The rise of conservation movements and campaigns
  • Colonialism, industrialisation and its impact on nature conservation
  • Landscapes, the sublime, and concepts of nature
  • Place-making and its role in environmental protection
  • Naturalists, the media, and the promotion of the conservation ethic
  • The naturalist and new technologies – advancing nature conservation

We will be organising tours of the Museum of Zoology and its collections, and independent visits can be made to other museums such as the Whipple Museum of the History of Science and Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, both a short walk from the Museum. Directions to the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge. Download map.

For further information and updates about the meeting visit

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