29 April 2009

A Darwin paper from 1878

I went to the University of Maryland's McKeldin Library this afternoon to photograph a figure in a paper by Charles Darwin published in Nature in 1878*. I need the figure for a manuscript about Darwin's work with mollusks. Although Darwin's paper is available on The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, I wasn't satisfied with the quality of the figure extracted from the pdf version. So I decided to photograph the figure directly.

Luckily, the U of MD has a complete collection of Nature, although the 19th century volumes are not in the best state of preservation.


According to the stamp on the fist page, volume 18 once belonged to an O. V. Riley of Washington, D.C.


Here is the 2nd page of Darwin's paper and the figure I needed. Darwin was actually relaying a letter sent to him by a correspondent from Massachusetts.


*Darwin, C. 1878. Transplantation of shells. Nature 18:120-121.


thedispersalofdarwin said...

Reminds me of the connection between Darwin and Francis Crick:


Also on National Geographic, again by Ridley.

George said...

I'm pretty sure that's "C.V. Riley", not "O.V." Charles Valentine Riley was a very notable entomologist in Washington D.C. in the late 1800's. Riley was state entomologist for Missouri, then served (and later directed) on the U.S. Entomological Commission investing the massive grasshopper outbreaks in the west in the 1870's, and many other problems. He was one of the first entomologists employed by the USDA, and the first curator of insects for the Smithsonian. In the 1870's and 80's, a "root aphid" introduced from North America was wiping out the grape vineyards of Europe. Riley determined that native North American grape vines were resistant, and working with a French colleague, found that grafting European vines onto rootstock of native North American species allowed the vines to survive. For his work, the French government named him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

He's also credited with one of the first modern applications of biological control, for overseeing the introduction of a predatory beetle to control a scale insect in California orange groves. He was tremendously productive, wrote over 2400 articles, and when appointed to the Smithsonian, he donated his personal collection of over 120,000 specimens. He career was cut short by accidental death. In 1895, only 52 years old, he fell from a bicycle while riding down a hill, and suffered fatal head injury.

Quite an interesting character.


In the fully enlarged original photo that character looks like an O. But it's a peculiar O, because it has a little "ear" on the top towards the right. Next time I am at the library, I will try to remember to take a better look at that page & also at the other volumes from that period.