The SHNH site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our privacy policy.


Society for the History of Natural History

SHNH newsletter archives

SHNH e-newsletter (2) July 2023

SHNH e-newsletter (2) July 2023

Dear Friends

Welcome to our second SHNH e-news. This does not replace the print edition of our newsletter but Trustees agreed that we would like to also keep you updated with items of news that are time-sensitive. We hope you enjoy.

Visit to ZSL Prince Philip Zoological Library & Archives
Thursday 21st September 2023 at 2:30pm

To register to attend please visit: 


Summer meeting and AGM, 13 June 2023

It seems impossible that it was a month ago that we convened at ThinkTank, Birmingham Science Museum for our Summer Meeting ‘The Language of Nature’ and Annual General Meeting for 2023.

What a time we had! Not only did we hear from twelve fantastic speakers on their current research – which covered everything from the global history of the word “atoll” to monkeys trained to collect fungi – but members old and new were united for the first time since 2019. The breaks which interspersed the panels provided opportunity for the exchange of ideas and networking, and it was an absolute joy to stand back and see that happening throughout the day (and late into the evening!).

It has been particularly warming to hear from those who attended an SHNH meeting for the first time how much they enjoyed it, and what a friendly and welcoming group they found us to be. For those of you who were unable to join us on this occasion, we’ve put together some photos that give a flavour of the event below.

As part of the meeting, we held our AGM and are delighted to report that Rachel Jennings has joined Council as the new Social Media, Communications and Promotions Secretary. I am sure you will join me in extending a warm welcome to Rachel. This year’s awards were also officially presented, and citations read.

My thanks go to my fellow Council Members for their help and support in organising the event, particularly to Dr Anne Secord, Will Beharrell and Professor Helen Cowie for chairing panels, to Jeanne Robinson, Maggie O’Reilly and Elaine Shaughnessy for their help on setting up on the day, and to Gina Douglas for producing the delegate packs.

Plans are already afoot for new events later this year, and for a return of both the Early Career Researchers Symposium and Summer Meeting for 2024, so we do hope to see you at an event soon.

With very best wishes,

Dr Elle Larsson, Meeting Secretary, SHNH

Visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

SHNH members also had a wonderful visit the following day to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1829, designed by J. C. Loudon (1783-1843) and opened in 1832, the general layout is much the same today as Loudon’s plan with fifteen acres of beautiful landscaped gardens and four glasshouses including the Tropical House, Subtropical House, and Mediterranean and Arid Houses. It also has a lovely rose garden and Japanese garden and holds the national collection of Bonsai. Do go and visit if you are in Birmingham.


Visit to the ZSL Prince Philip Zoological Library & Archives
Thursday 21st September 2023 at 2:30pm

Back by popular demand, and with huge thanks to the team at the Library and Archives, we are running another visit to the ZSL Prince Philip Zoological Library and Archives this September.
To register to attend please visit: 

SHNH members had a fascinating visit to the ZSL Library in March with many thanks to Ann Sylph and her team. Photo courtesy of Paul Leonard.


Archives of Natural History Volume 50
A cause for celebration!

A bumper issue – there are articles on the discovery of an amphibious fish from southern India, the role natural history played in the BBC’s programming in the early 20th century, the discovery of the Himalayan red panda in Nepal, new identifications of natural history images on the ‘Bodleian Plate’, an 18th century copperplate, and much more!

I hope you are all enjoying our 50th issue of Archives of Natural History – a real cause for celebration! Anne Secord, in her ‘Foreword’, has written that ‘this achievement results from 87 years of successful effort by SHNH together with the authors, reviewers, editors, associate editors, editorial boards and our publishers, Edinburgh University Press, who have contributed so much to the journal …

As we look to the future of the history of natural history, it is heartening to see new approaches that take more account of global history, indigenous voices, women practitioners, and other previously marginalized groups, giving us a more diverse multi-perspectival view of knowledge about the natural world. There is an increasing recognition of the connections of natural history with agriculture, medicine, mining and other practical subjects; these links add to our understanding of the growth of the subject during the past century. With the digitization of all past issues of Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History and Archives, together with authors’ blog posts on the website of our publisher Edinburgh University Press, the journal has the potential to reach more audiences than ever. These aims are clear from the new bye-laws of the SHNH adopted in 2021. Encouraging new work by early-career scholars and students has been vital to this expansion. …

From its establishment, the journal has not only reflected the aims for which it was founded but also embraced new approaches and topics. This willingness to change is one of the constants of the journal … Notwithstanding the significance of these aspects of the history of natural history, there is another that should not be ignored. And that is the pleasure that both reading and writing history brings. This is encapsulated in each issue of Archives of Natural History and long may that last!’

You can read the full text of Anne’s ‘Foreword’ here.

The editors are working on the next issue and you can look forward to articles on the crested turkey, glass specimens of Herman O. Mueller, exotic animals in London, the ornithology of Agnes Block, and many others!

To submit an article to Archives of Natural History please contact the Editor at


British Book Awards 2023

We are delighted to congratulate our publishers Edinburgh University Press who have won the Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year Award at the British Book Awards 2023. CEO Nicola Ramsey said, ‘I am utterly delighted that EUP has won this award. The last year has represented a new beginning for the Press, and the whole team has been dedicated to bringing about the change needed in order to deliver on our vision of connecting people and ideas. The award feels like a wonderful validation of what we are aiming to achieve and will no doubt inspire us as we continue our work.’ Read more here.


SHNH W. T.  Stearn Student Essay Prize

A reminder that the closing date is 31 July 2023 and to forward your submissions. Information on submitting an article.

Instituted in 2007 to commemorate the work of  William T. Stearn (1911–2001), a scholar whose work contributed much to the field and to this Society, the prize is awarded to the best original, unpublished essay in the history of natural history. The competition is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students worldwide in full- or part-time education, and to postdoctoral students within two years of the award of their doctorate. It is not limited to members of SHNH.


The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has published the correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller (

Ferdinand Mueller (1825-1896), von Mueller from 1869, born Rostock, graduated Kiel, in Australia from 1847, the greatest Australian scientist of the nineteenth century. A prolific taxonomist, he was also an explorer and supporter of exploration, an economic botanist, an inwards and outwards acclimatiser, a middle-man in supplying European and American museums with zoological and ethnographical specimens. Government Botanist of the Colony of Victoria from 1853 and Director of the Melbourne Botanic Garden 1857-73, he was active outside Victoria, had an international orientation, was elected to many national academies and regional scientific societies around the world, and accumulated 22 knighthoods and a hereditary Barony.

His correspondence informs studies of botany and botanical history, the role of expertise in government service, exploration, social and economic history, science beyond the metropolis, and science and empire.

Other letters will be added to the searchable data base as they are fully edited. At launch on 21 June 2023 the site  included 11, 249 letters between Mueller and his correspondents, and 207 letters between others that are important in understanding aspects of his life.There are about 3 500 letters awaiting final processing.

The site also contains an updated list of Mueller’s publications wherever possible with a hyperlink to an online source.

Arthur M Lucas


Looking Back: An International Retrospective

Hunt Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
14 September–14 December 2023

To celebrate the upcoming 60th anniversary of the International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration series, we are having a two-part retrospective exhibition in fall 2023 and spring 2024 featuring some of the 1,212 artists who have been included in the series since 1964. The fall 2023 exhibition, Looking Back: An International Retrospective, Part 1, includes works by 46 artists from the first eight Internationals. The celebration culminates with the opening of our 17th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration in fall 2024.

The reception on 14 September (5:00-7:00 p.m.) is open to the public. At
5:30 p.m. in the gallery the curator will introduce the exhibition and the artists in attendance.

Fritillaria … . Watercolor on paper by John Paul Wellington Furse (1904–1978), 35.5 × 25.5 cm, for Patrick Millington Synge (1910–1982), The Complete Guide to Bulbs (London, Collins, 1961, pl. 13), HI Art accession no. 1423, reproduced by permission of the estate of the artist.


Hot off the Press


Some Quick News


SHNH Newsletter (print version)

I am now working also on the print version of the next SHNH Newsletter so do forward me any items of interest, new publications, articles, courses and events that you would like to share. Many thanks to everyone who has already submitted material.  I will be in touch over the course of the next couple of months.

With very best wishes,


Elaine Shaughnessy
Newsletter Editor, Society for the History of Natural History
Email :