EML Blog

Who was Ruth Turner?

[written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

Ruth Dixon Turner (1914-2000) was one of the foremost marine scientists of the 20th century. She taught at Harvard but carried out research all over the world, working with wood-boring mollusks, such as shipworms. In the late 1970s after the discovery of hydrothermal vents she was the first woman to dive in the deep submergence vehicle Alvin, which she kept on doing for the next couple of decades.

While going through her papers, housed at the Library, we came across the following...

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Notes from the Hassler archives: Peruvian skulls

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

By the end of May 1872 the Hassler deep-sea dredging expedition had reached the warm waters of Peru, the steamer anchoring in Callao, next to Lima. There once again the fame of Professor Louis Agassiz would pay off with invitations to excursions on newly built railroads up the Andes and fancy dinners that much impressed the young James H. Blake:

 

A short walk brought us there, a very large house, almost a palace. White with long marble columns or pillars in front. We first went into a room where was a servant to black our boots brush our clothes etc, then was ushered into the gentlemans drawing room […] When we entered there were some 20 gentlemen dress very stylish […] Soon we were introduced and invited to the adjoining room to a cocktail. […] I was called by Mr. Wigs & introduced to his daughter whom I took in to dinner. There were sixty-two in all, about ½ as many ladies as gentlemen. We had about 40 different courses and sat down at 5 and arose about 9.30. Everything the country afforded was in the table it seemed – meats, fowl, gellies, pastry many kinds and fruit, six or seven varieties.

 

Views of Lima, Peru
"Views of Lima, Peru, from the Hassler scrapbook"

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National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) Job Postings

We're hiring!

The vacancies for the five National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) cohort positions have been posted through Harvard University. These five residents will work on projects related to the Biodiversity Heritage Library at BHL partner institutions in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, St. Louis , MO or Los Angeles, CA from January 2017 to December 2017....

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Notes from the Hassler archives: Encounters in Patagonia

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

 

As the Hassler deep-sea dredging expedition reached Patagonia and the Strait of Magellan in March 1872, getting provisions through commerce was no longer feasible, so the job was left in the hands of the ship’s crew and even of the members of the scientific party, as James H. Blake describes in these passages of his journal, written in Elizabeth Island:

 

We could see large rookeries at different places on the land where hundreds of birds were sitting and as all in the boat were anxious to get to them first it was arranged that all should land at the same time and at the word “go” fire the birds. There was a large variety of them and the cormorant (Phalaecrocorax) being the most abundant. Some of the party went one way by the shore and some the other to look for sea-lions […]

 

Party at the Site of Hassler Glacier
"Party at the Site of Hassler Glacier"

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Notes from William Brewster: Trials in Wildlife Photography

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, Library Project Assistant.

In the mid-1890s, Brewster’s journals increasingly reference using new methods of data collection. Though he continued to collect specimens on a smaller scale, with focus shifted from birds to their nests and eggs, his journals show that he began to use his gun more for securing dinner than for data collection. He started to bring field glasses (binoculars) and a boxy Kodak camera on his excursions.

Setting up photographs in the field was challenging. Sometimes a bit of prep work helped, such as thinning the foliage in backcountry areas: “I spent the day ashore taking a walk through the wood road in the forenoon with camera & hatchet selecting & cutting out spots for photographing later.” (Sunshine, Deer Island, Maine. June 26, 1896.)

Opportunistic shots of live animals were even trickier, but once in a while he managed to get some good shots. 

Porcupine

Sepia-toned photo of a porcupine on a tree branch.

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Notes from the Hassler archives: Carnival in Rio

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

After being prevented from going onshore in Recife due to a yellow fever outbreak in the city, one could expect that the Hassler party would be anxious to step on land as soon as they arrived in Rio de Janeiro, on January 23rd 1872. However, they seemed to rejoice under the ship’s awning, which provided shelter from the blistering heat, and spent time observing the scenery as Blake sketched on his journal:

 

The entrance of the harbor we arrived at about 8 o’clock and I confess I am far from being able to do them justice by any description., but on either side are the lofty mountains which are very picturesque and grand. The Noted Sugar Loaf [which as the story goes only one man has ever climbed, he an American sailor who planted the Union Jack there] is situated on the left hand side a very steep rock, almost perpendicular and doe to the water, on the western side is a ridge of hills about half as high, extending against the back of it.

 

View of Rio
"View of Rio de Janeiro, from the Hassler Scrapbook"

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Notes from William Brewster: Summer Thrushes

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, library project assistant.

William Brewster’s summertime journals are filled with birdsong: he noted which species were singing, when, and, to the best of his ability, what those songs sounded like. This left us some beautiful nature writing that also provides some insight on the scientist's emotional connection to his work and study sites. Here are two passages...

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Digging into the personal writings of a 19th century ornithologist

This post is part of a series on the collection of ornithologist William Brewster (1851-1919) at the Ernst Mayr Library, written by Elizabeth Meyer, Library Project Assistant. It is also published on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 1866 
A.M. pleasant P.M. cloudy. Studied part of P.M. Went to circus in evening & saw a...

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BHL Update - June 2016

As of the end of June, 2016, the Ernst Mayr Library has digitized and contributed over 9300 volumes (3,162,725 pages) to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). Contained within these pages are 11,966,599 instances of indexed species names. Since the first volumes were uploaded to BHL in December, 2007, Ernst Mayr Library items have been accessed a total of 7,040,287 times. Monthly usage now consistently exceeds 100,000 downloads with June, 2016 showing a total of 171,499...

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