Edward Turner, First Professor of Chemistry at UCL

Edward Turner was a Creole. So what?

A historian colleague of mine recently asked if I knew anything about the genealogy of UCL’s first Professor of Chemistry, Edward Turner (1796-1837). This colleague said he had heard a report that Turner was mixed race, the son of a Creole mother. Being a careful and critical historian, my friend wanted to know about evidence. We both understood this would be an exciting piece of…

Image from Cover - Farrall 2019 English Eugenics Movement 9781787510012

Farrall’s (1969) History of English Eugenics, 1865-1925, republished

The history of eugenics in Britain is far from hidden or forgotten. Many excellent papers and books explore the role of individuals (e.g., Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, Ronald Fisher, and Leonard Darwin to name only a few of the men involved) and the role of organisations (e.g., Eugenics Education Society). Eugenics in Britain has been studied in depth with an emphasis on class, gender, race,…

Use the office hours set by your tutors; it's your time

What’s an office hour?

Stairwell conversation about office hours You: Hey Joe, what’s an “office hour”? Me: It’s a time when I’m in my office. You: Eh? Me: Sorry. It’s time reserved for students to visit. I’m in my office. I don’t make appointments. I’m there for drop-in visits from students. You: Yeah, but I can knock on your door whenever I want. Sometimes you’re in; sometimes, not. What’s…

Charles Darwin Blue Plaque on Gower Street London WC1, by Professor Joe Cain

Darwin in London

During research concerning Charles Darwin and Emma Darwin’s life at number 12 Upper Gower Street, London, I identified several errors and vagaries in biographical material found in standard reference works. This note communicates corrections and clarifications. There is some new information about the history of the house, and some corrections to baptism records associated with the Darwin family. This is all written up in an…

The anatomist overtaken by the watch carrying off Miss W-ts in a hamper

Corruption Exposed in Body-Snatching Business, 1825

In Britain, body-snatching was a cloak-and-dagger business. It also was corrupt. When her husband was arrested, tried, and executed for crimes associated with body-snatching, Ann Millard sought revenge. To her mind, local officials were complicit in the theft of bodies and their subsequent sale to anatomists. So were the medical schools where bodies often arrived in the middle of the night without explanation. While her…

Spiral galaxy (NASA)

Music of the Stars – Live Performance Celebrating History of Astronomy

In May 2011, Dr Silvia De Bianchi organised the workshop, “The Harmony of the Sphere: Kant and Herschel on the universe and the Astronomical Phenomena” at UCL. This brought together research on Kant, Herschel, and astronomy. The workshop culminated in a musical programme featuring original interpretations of compositions produced to honour astronomy and astronomical reflections. The music was recorded and produced by UCL Department of Science and…

Grave of Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy, Upper Norwood, London

Robert Fitzroy is buried in Upper Norwood Cemetery (photographs)

Robert Fitzroy (5 July 1805 – 30 April 1865) is buried in the church yard of All Saints Church, Upper Norwood, London (site). The memorial was restored in 1997. At the time of his death, Fitzroy lived at 140 Church Road. This is near the church, and the site has historical markers from Croydon to mark the fact Fitzroy lived in this house. Church Road connects…

Charles Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Penguin Classics), 1890 second edition, edited by Professor Joe Cain and Dr Sharon Messenger ISBN 9780141439440

Charles Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1890 second edition) (book)

He who admits, on general grounds, that the structure and habits of all animals have been gradually evolved, will look at the whole subject of Expression in a new and interesting light. (Charles Darwin) New edition, with an upgrade First published in 1872, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals was a book at the very heart of Darwin’s research interests – a…

Tiger skeleton from No Ordinary Space (History of UCL Grant Museum of Zoology (ISBN 9781906267896) | Professor Joe Cain

No Ordinary Space: UCL Grant Museum (book)

Book on UCL Grant Museum of Zoology UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology moved to The Thomas Lewis Room in UCL’s Rockefeller Building in 2011. This book answers popular historical questions about the room, the building, and the wider university and medical school environment.  The aim is to investigate basic historical questions visitors have had about the space, some of the architectural details, and the building’s…

Illustration from Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ (1854) public lecture on creating Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins: Why I Built the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (FGS, FLS) was the sculptor who created the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. Specifically, he created over thirty statues of prehistoric animals for the Crystal Palace and Park (Sydenham), which opened in June 1854. The statues included dinosaurs (Iguanodon, Megalosaurus, and Hylaeosaurus), Mesozoic marine reptiles (Plesiosaurus, Ichthyosaurus, and Mosasaurus), other extinct reptiles (Dicynodon and Labyrinthdon), and mammals from the Tertiary Period (Anoplotherium and Palaeotherium) and…