Animal Paris, part 1: Fagotin and his kin

This is the first post in a occasional series on animals in (mostly) early modern Paris. 29 April 2015 Last week, a US judge apparently ruled that two research chimpanzees are “legal persons” and have standing to pursue a court case against their captivity.  As the work of historian Alan Ross is revealing, non-human primates …

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Long Live the King

21 September 2014, Berlin Louis XIV, who saw himself as the new Alexander the Great, adopted the lion as one of his symbols. Although he didn’t wear a lion skin on his head like Alexander, real and imaginary lions surrounded him. The lion long pre-dated Alexander as a symbol of power and majesty. On visits …

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Outing the Other

I've been reading another book in animal studies that talks about the other and even "othering," a solecism I can barely tolerate and will keep in quotation marks. A number of philosophers have variously defined what the “other” is, ranging from God to animals to women to the disabled to the colonized. Except for God …

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Why fierce animals are fierce

The eighteenth-century Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) wrote many books, but among his most famous were his Aphorisms and his Materia medica, both of which were translated and reprinted throughout the century.  They distilled the conventional wisdom of the day and added Boerhaave's own astute observations.  The following observations from Materia medica follow a logic we …

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Playing Chicken

Back in 2012, the US Department of Agriculture proposed new regulations for processing chickens.  These included speeding up the processing line from 140 birds a minute to 175 birds a minute.  At the same time, the number of federal inspectors would be reduced.  This head-scratching equation would supposedly save money and allow inspectors to pay …

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An Ostrich for the New Year

Aristotle had not been entirely certain that the ostrich was a bird, but it took pride of place among the birds in the Versailles menagerie and in the 1676 Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux.   Ostriches had first made the long journey from Africa to Paris in the early seventeenth century; the young …

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The Ghastly Kitchen

Next month, I'll be giving a talk at the International Congress of History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (ICHSTM) in Manchester, UK.  I recently blogged about it on the conference blog: In 1865, the physiologist Claude Bernard described the life sciences as “a superb and dazzlingly lighted hall which may be reached only by passing …

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