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1.  Jan Swammerdam's frogs 
Having discussed insect metamorphosis at length, Jan Swammerdam's Bybel der Natuure (1679/1737) reached its climax with a substantial description of the generation and muscular activity of frogs. This paper explores the rhetorical role of frogs in Swammerdam's ‘great work’, showing how they were the Archimedean point from which he aimed to reorder all of creation—from insects to humans—within one glorious, God-ordained natural history and philosophy. Swammerdam linked insects to frogs through a demonstration that all underwent epigenesis; and frogs were then linked to humans through a demonstration of their identical muscular activity. The success of Swammerdam's strategy required a theological reconstruction of the frog, traditionally an ungodly creature, such that trustworthy knowledge could be obtained from its body. Perhaps surprisingly, this act of theological cleansing is shown to be somewhat prefigured in the distinctly non-experimental natural history of Edward Topsell (1608). The paper also examines Swammerdam's interactions with the mystic Antoinette Bourignon, and his challenges in reconciling a spirituality of meletetics with a material epistemology in natural philosophy. Differences are revealed between the natural analogies given by Swammerdam in his published and unpublished writings, undermining to a certain extent the triumphal insect–frog–human rhetorical structure of the Bybel.
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2012.0039
PMCID: PMC3594884
Jan Swammerdam; frog; natural history; Antoinette Bourignon; Edward Topsell; science and religion
2.  ‘Vividness’ in english natural history and anatomy, 1650–1700 
This article concerns the use of rhetorical strategies in the natural historical and anatomical works of the seventeenth-century Royal Society. Choosing representative works, it argues that naturalists such as Nehemiah Grew, John Ray and the neuroanatomist Thomas Willis used the rhetorical device known as ‘comparison’ to make their descriptions of natural things vivid. By turning to contemporary works of neurology such as Willis's Cerebri Anatome and contemporary rhetorical works inspired by other such descriptions of the brain and nerves, it is argued that the effects of these strategies were taken to be wide-ranging. Contemporaries understood the effects of rhetoric in terms inflected by anatomical and medical discourse—the brain was physically altered by powerful sense impressions such as those of rhetoric. I suggest that the rhetoric of natural history could have been understood in the same way and that natural history and anatomy might therefore have been understood to cultivate the mind, improving its capacity for moral judgements as well as giving it knowledge of nature.
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2012.0045
PMCID: PMC3594888
rhetoric; neurology; natural history; anatomy; vividness; comparison
3.  Perrault, Buffon and the natural history of animals 
In 1733, as part of a programme to publish its early works in a uniform format, the Paris Academy of Sciences reprinted Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux (Histoire des animaux), last published in 1676, a work of both natural history and mechanistic anatomy. However, unlike the other works in this enterprise, Histoire des animaux was extensively edited and updated. In 1749 Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon published the first volume of Histoire naturelle. Its volumes on quadrupeds, written with Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton, held significant similarities to Histoire des animaux. The relationship between these works has not hitherto been examined. Buffon's early ideas on species, in particular, resemble the emphasis on particulars of Histoire des animaux.
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2012.0044
PMCID: PMC3594889
Paris Academy of Sciences; King's Garden (Paris); Buffon; Daubenton; Claude Perrault; Joseph-Guichard Duverney
5.  The debt of John Ray and Martin Lister to Guillaume Rondelet of Montpellier 
The fame of its medical university and its reputation for field botany attracted visitors from all over Europe to seventeenth-century Montpellier. It was there that Martin Lister first made the acquaintance of John Ray in 1665. Twenty years later, in London, they cooperated in the production of the ambitious and lavishly illustrated Historia Piscium based on the notes of the late Francis Willughby. Ray, Lister and others contributed additional material. In their own work on fishes, cetaceans and shellfish Ray and Lister were considerably indebted to the Libri de piscibus marinis of an earlier Montpellier professor, Guillaume Rondelet, whose Aristotelian/Galenic approach to the study of medicine and living things was distinguished by a quite exceptional level of knowledge about aquatic species, based on a secure grasp of the classical and contemporary literature, but above all on his own observations in rivers, lakes, lagoons and the open sea, and his domestication (and dissection) of marine species in ponds and aquaria at his country house. Rondelet's book proved useful to Ray and to Lister as a work of reference, as a stimulus for reflection on biological problems, as an aid to nomenclature, as a source of precise descriptions of species, in both words and pictures, as a model to be improved upon in taxonomy, as a warning against reliance on hearsay, and as a valuable account of observations and experiments. Ray used it in much the same way as he used the work of those sixteenth-century botanists who met with his approval. Several of these had been Rondelet's pupils.
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2012.0040
PMCID: PMC3594891
Montpellier; Renaissance zoology; Lister; Ray; Rondelet; Willughby
6.  Frontispiece 
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2012.0057
PMCID: PMC3594892
7.  Attending to insects: Francis Willughby and John Ray 
Francis Willughby and John Ray were at the forefront of the natural history of insects in the second half of the seventeenth century. Willughby in particular had a deep interest in insects' metamorphosis, behaviour and diversity, an interest that he passed on to his friend and mentor Ray. By examining Willughby's contributions to John Wilkins's Essay towards a Real Character (1668) and Ray's Methodus insectorum (1705) and Historia insectorum (1710), which contained substantial material from Willughby's manuscript history of insects, one may reconstruct how the two naturalists studied insects, their innovative use of metamorphosis in insect classification, and the sheer diversity of insect forms that they described on the basis of their own collections and those of London and Oxford virtuosi. Imperfect as it was, Historia insectorum was recognized by contemporaries as a significant contribution to the emerging field of entomology.
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2012.0051
PMCID: PMC3594893
insects; entomology; natural history; observation; metamorphosis
8.  Ambiguous Cells: The Emergence of the Stem Cell Concept in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 
Summary
This paper elucidates the origins of scientific work on stem cells. From the late nineteenth century onwards, the notion of stem cells became customary in scientific communities of Imperial Germany. Adopting the term ‘Stammzelle’ from Ernst Haeckel, Theodor Boveri was influential in introducing the concept in embryological studies and early genetics around 1900, describing a capacity of stem cells for self-renewal as well as differentiation. Blood stem cells were at the same time conceptualized by histologists such as Ernst Neumann and Artur Pappenheim in studies of physiological haematopoiesis and various forms of leukaemia. Furthermore, building on Julius Cohnheim’s theory that tumours arise from ‘embryonic remnants’ in the adult body, pathologists aimed at identifying the cells of origin, particularly in the embryo-like teratomas. Embryonic stem cells thus assumed an ambiguous status, partly representing common heritage and normal development, partly being seen as potential causes of cancer if they had been left behind or displaced during ontogeny. In the 1950s and 1960s experimental research on teratocarcinomas by Leroy Stevens and Barry Pierce in the USA brought the strands of embryological and pathological work together. Alongside the work of Ernest McCulloch and James Till at the Ontario Cancer Institute, from the early 1960s, on stem cells in haematopoiesis, this led into the beginnings of modern stem cell research.
PMCID: PMC3793240  PMID: 22332468
stem cells; embryology; haematopoiesis; tumours; teratoma
9.  Working with Cambridge physiologists 
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2007.0036
PMCID: PMC2628578  PMID: 18548908
10.  Working with C. S. Sherrington, 1918–24 
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2007.0037
PMCID: PMC2628577  PMID: 18548907
11.  Keeping the culture alive: the laboratory technician in mid-twentieth-century British medical research 
This paper reports results from a detailed study of the careers of laboratory technicians in British medical research. Technicians and their contributions are very frequently missing from accounts of modern medicine, and this project is an attempt to correct that absence. The present paper focuses almost entirely on the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research in North London, from the first proposal of such a body in 1913 until the mid 1960s. The principal sources of information have been technical staff themselves, largely as recorded in an extensive series of oral history interviews. These have covered a wide range of issues and provide valuable perspectives about technicians' backgrounds and working lives.
doi:10.1098/rsnr.2007.0035
PMCID: PMC2628576  PMID: 18548906
medical laboratory technicians; medical laboratories; medical history
12.  KEEPING THE CULTURE ALIVE 
This paper reports results from a detailed study of the careers of laboratory technicians in British medical research. Technicians and their contributions are very frequently missing from accounts of modern medicine, and this project is an attempt to correct that absence. The present paper focuses almost entirely on the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research in North London, from the first proposal of such a body in 1913 until the mid 1960s. The principal sources of information have been technical staff themselves, largely as recorded in an extensive series of oral history interviews. These have covered a wide range of issues and provide valuable perspectives about technicians’ backgrounds and working lives.
PMCID: PMC2628576  PMID: 18548906
medical laboratory technicians; medical laboratories; medical history

Results 1-14 (14)