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Naturalists' Practices and Nature's Empire: Paris and the Platypus, 1815-1833

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Title: Naturalists' Practices and Nature's Empire: Paris and the Platypus, 1815-1833
Authors: Burkhardt, Richard W Jr.
Issue Date: Oct 2001
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Citation: Burkhardt RW Jr, 2001. Naturalists' practices and nature's empire: Paris and the platypus, 1815-1833. Pac Sci 55(4): 327-341.
Abstract: Among the multiple interactions between governments and museums
that were so important for the growth of natural history in the nineteenth century,
perhaps none looked more promising at its inception than did the special
"school for naturalist voyagers" that was instituted at the Museum of Natural
History in Paris in 1819. Proposed initially by the French Minister of the Interior,
who also promised to fund the operation, the idea of the school was to train
young naturalists who could then be sent off to the far corners of the globe in
search of plants, animals, and minerals useful to France and interesting to
science. The professors of the Museum were enthusiastic about the Minister's
idea. However, aligning the interests of the naturalists at the Museum with those
of the French government and a collection of young, aspiring naturalist
voyagers was not an entirely straightforward matter. This paper considers the
school for naturalist voyagers in the light of France's prior experiences with
naturalist voyages (most notably the Baudin expedition to Australia), her most
pressing colonial needs in the early years of the Restoration, and the practices of
the naturalists of the Paris Museum. The platypus makes an appearance here
amidst a contest over the control of specimens. Finally, we consider notions of
"the empire of nature" and what resonance such notions might have had at the
Paris Museum at the time the school for naturalists was promoted.
ISSN: 0030-8870
Appears in Collections:Pacific Science Volume 55, Number 4, 2001

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