Artefact of the month - April 2010. Bicentenary of Philip Henry Gosse
This month we celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Philip Henry Gosse on 6 April 1810. Gosse was a renowned Victorian naturalist but was above all a marine biologist, designing and popularising the aquarium, a word he invented. He found the term `Aquatic Vivarium’ awkward and uncouth and coined the term `Aquarium’.
Gosse was instrumental in the establishment of London Zoo’s `Fish House‘, ZSL’s first Aquarium. In his book The Aquarium Gosse wrote:
“Early in December, 1852, I put myself into communication with the Secretary of the Zoological Society, and the result was the transfer of a small collection of the Zoophytes and Annelides, which I had brought up from Ilfracombe and which I had kept for two months in cases in London, - to one of the tanks in the new Fish House just erected in the Society’s Gardens in Regent’s Park. This little collection thus became the nucleus and the commencement of the Marine Aquarium afterwards exhibited there.”
Gosse continued to supply regular consignments of marine animals to the Zoological Society during the first half of 1853.
In his book The Aquarium Gosse included a detailed instructions for readers wanting to make their own aquarium with an account of his own difficulties and experiences in establishing successful aquaria. The book is largely an account of his own observations on the seashore.
The beautiful illustrations below are from two of his published books: Actinologia Britannica : a history of the British sea-anemones and corals, with coloured figures of the species and principal varieties, (London : Van Voorst 1860) and two editions of The aquarium, an unveiling of the wonders of the deep sea, (London : Van Voorst, 1854 and 2nd, rev. & enl. Edition, 1856).
If you would like to find out more, Glimpses of the wonderful : the life of Philip Henry Gosse by Ann Thwaite, (London : Faber & Faber, 2002) and Walking with Gosse : natural history, creation and religious conflicts by Roger S. Wotton (Southampton : Clio Publishing, 2012) are biographies of Gosse. The Zoological Society of London 1826-1976 and beyond edited by Professor Lord Zuckerman et al, (London : Zoological Society of London by Academic Press, 1976) contains a chapter on `Management of a public aquarium’ outlining the development of aquaria at ZSL London Zoo and another chapter on ZSL and ichthyology.
All the books mentioned can be consulted in ZSL Library.