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Society for the History of Natural History

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Presidential reflections on our jubilee year

Presidential reflections on our jubilee year

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘Thank you’ to all our Officers, Councillors and members who have jointly and individually made 2011 such a memorable jubilee year for the Society.  Julia Bruce produced our first full-colour newsletter before taking a well-earned retirement from its editorship.  Elaine Shaughnessy, public-spiritedly, has taken on that mantle of responsibility and is doing a splendid job in furthering its aims and objectives.  Your continued co-operation is sought in constantly feeding her suitable material for inclusion.  Our much-admired website (also Elaine’s bailiwick) continues to grow in scope and depth. 

   Nils Hellström’s William T. Stearn Prize essay on the ‘Tree as evolutionary icon: TREE in the Natural History Museum, London’ was published this year and became one of the most downloaded of our papers from the SHNH pages on the Edinburgh University Press website. The inaugural Patron’s Review essay was published in Archives and I hope you will all agree that Dr Kusukawa did a splendid job for us in her spectacular paper (embellished with so many colour pictures).

   We have had a series of splendid meetings, managed with charm and efficiency by Gina Douglas.  Our 75th anniversary meeting at Chester Zoo in May was a great success and new members joined the Society.  More recently, the Sherborn meeting in October attracted unexpectedly large interest and will be available soon as a podcast.   Plans to publish the contributions from these meetings are variously in hand and will be announced as soon as possible. 

   Charles Nelson’s compilation of snippets from past newsletters, History & mystery, has attracted much acclaim.  If anyone is still looking for presents suitable for Christmas, problem solved!  Charles is also to be congratulated, as ever, for his brilliant editorship of Archives.  That we have such an immaculate journal is down to him and to Juliet Clutton-Brock as associate editor and Isabelle Charmantier as book reviews editor.  We now have on-line access to the complete Archives of natural history (albeit with a few glitches still in the process of being ironed-out).

   Bill and Lesley Noblett are to be thanked for sorting out the PayPal facility (with Elaine’s collaboration) that enables us to facilitate overseas members’ requirements for paying for History & mystery in their own currency.  Miranda Lowe is now looking after members’ queries (efficiently helped out by Kathie Way in the background) and has facilitated our Council meetings at the Natural History Museum).  Lynda Brooks manages to keep tabs on the Society’s administration with tenacity and verve.

   The Society was recently able to present our Patron, Sir David Attenborough, with his Founders’ Medal (announced at the SHNH AGM in Chester).  His busy filming schedule means that he is a hard man to pin down, but one of our members, Professor Gren Lucas managed to catch up with him at the recent Darwin Lecture on science and medicine in London.

   We have been expanding the outreach of the Society by instituting an overseas representative in South Africa – Professor Francis Thackeray – and are in the process of establishing a new representative in Gibraltar.  Malgosia Nowak-Kemp oversees the overseas considerations and is always enthusiastically looking to expand our influence in the world.

   A good many people work in the background on our behalf  – the Stearn Prize committee, headed by Ann Secord; the Thackray medal committee headed by our Vice-President Hugh Torrens); and our Council members and I would like to thank them for their continued diligence.  I also take this opportunity, on behalf of all members, to say thank you to Les Jessop who has recently stood down as one of our Associate Editors. Les has done a sterling job on the Society’s behalf in that capacity and also by serving on Council.The Society relies on volunteers to deliver its message, so thanks to all who have helped make this year such a success.  At the end of the day, however, if we want the Society to thrive, it is down to members to participate.  So, please do get involved whenever you can.  Help us recruit new members.  That way we can be sure that the Society will go from strength to strength for the next 75 years.  Happy Christmas!

Geoff Moore

SHNH President