Collecting curiosities was a gentlemanly occupation for wealthy and educated 18th-century Europeans. Few creatures aroused more curiosity than those from Australia. But collections demand organisation, and classification itself reveals patterns to life that cannot be ignored. From a leisurely occupation, the science of biology was born. Cabinets de curiosites became national museums, with specimens from Australia playing an integral role in all kinds of biological debates. Australian museums now foster their own research and continue to provide major and sometimes unexpected perspectives to international scientific developments. Continent of Curiosities follows the thread of individual natural history stories through the scientists of one of Australia's oldest museums, Museum Victoria. Together, these stories weave a history of the development of biological science from an Australian perspective, with insights into the people and places that influence the way we see and understand the natural world around us.
Acknowledgements; Part I. Visions from the Old World - The Last Five Hundred Years: 1. Curious collections; 2. A beast named Su; 3. Local knowledge; Part II. Into the Forests - The Last 250,000 Years: 4. Water, water everywhere; 5. Forests of fire; 6. The mystery of the reappearing possums; Part III. From Fossils and Bones - The Last 250 Million Years: 7. The case of the missing mollusc; 8. Brainbox; 9. The ape case; Part IV. Visions of the New Worlds - The Last Four and a Half Billion Years: 10. Lines in the sea; 11. Shifting continents; 12. Is there life on Mars?; References and further reading.
Danielle Clode is a zoologist and writer based at the University of Melbourne. She has published on a wide range of scientific and mainstream subjects, from lateralisation in portraits to heroin overdoses. Her previous book Killers in Eden is now a major ABC TV documentary.
' ... beautifully produced ...' Mammalian Biology