The Turducken of Maastricht

When I gave a talk on fossils last year at the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, my Dutch friends told me to be sure to include a mention of the Maastricht mosasaur, the most famous fossil Maastricht mosasaurus. Wikimedia in the Netherlands, even though I was actually talking about much more recent fossils such as mammoths.  …

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The Head of a Roman

For the past few weeks, many news outlets have reported that the skull of Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, ca. 23-79 CE), the Roman naturalist and statesman who died at Pompeii, has been identified.  The latest story, in the New York Times, expresses some skepticism but admits the skull could have been Pliny’s. To …

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Interview with the ASECS Grad Caucus

I've been a member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) for over thirty years.  I was recently interviewed for the ASECS Graduate Caucus website.  Here's the link: https://asecsgradcaucus.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/interview-with-dr-anita-guerrini-2018-pfizer-prize-winner-for-the-courtiers-anatomists/ 

The Teeth of Theutobochus

In January 1613, workers at an estate in the Dauphiné, in southeastern France, unearthed a number of large bones.  They included two mandibles with some teeth, a couple of vertebrae, what seemed to be a sternum, a shoulder blade, the heel and instep of a foot, the top of a humerus, and (the prize) a …

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An Anatomy Cabinet

Utrecht, Netherlands, July 2019 Among the many delights for a historian of medicine like me at the University Museum in Utrecht is a reconstructed anatomy cabinet from the late eighteenth century.  It contains objects from the collection of Jan Bleuland (1756-1838), professor of medicine and "rector magnificus" of the University.  Domenico Bertoloni Meli discussed Bleuland …

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Instructions for a voyage, 1609

A few weeks ago I looked at some manuscripts of the French intellectual and antiquarian Nicolas-Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) at the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France.  I describe Peiresc as an “intellectual”; he was one of those universal scholars we find in early modern Europe who were interested in everything.  Peiresc’s fame, such as it …

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The Possibility of Giants

Various large bones, discovered across Europe from around 1500 onward, raised the possibility among Renaissance naturalists and intellectuals that very large humans – some five or even ten meters tall – once existed in the past.  The idea of giant ancestors already was prominent among scholars: the hugely popular works of Annius of Viterbo, particularly …

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