Tag: London

Citizen Science and Flying Ant Day, in 1707 and in 2013

http://logansquarebeerfestival.com/tamoxifen-10-mg-pills-uk-supplier-tamoxifen-10-mg-pills-shipped-from-canada-category-tamoxifen/ Posted on July 19, 2013 by - Animal History, Early Modern History, Environment History, History of Science, Networks, News, Royal Society

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Oecophylla smaragdina males preparing for nuptial flight, Thailand. Image credit: Sean.hoyland, Wikimedia Commons.

http://statusme.com/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://statusme.com/help come nn sbagliare mai con le opzioni binarie 60 sec Oecophylla smaragdina males preparing for nuptial flight, Thailand. Image credit: Sean.hoyland, Wikimedia Commons.

binäre optionen ohne risiko “What the heck!?” I spat, as an ant flew into my mouth. The winged ants were everywhere: crawling on the ground or (seemingly) flying dozily around. It was a warm and humid afternoon and I envied the laziness of the ants. But I had a tube train to catch and I hurried off without paying them much attention. It was only when I arrived in the centre of London and spotted more ants that I began to wonder what was happening.

quanto si puo guadagnare con uno studio di fisioterapia e osteopatia This was the U.K.’s famed ‘Flying Ant Day’ in which Queen Ants and the males take to the skies in their grandly titled nuptial flight. Although this annual event occurs wherever colonies of ants live, I had somehow never noticed it on the prairies of Canada–only discovering this natural spectacle about ten years ago while walking the urban pavements of London.

The 2013 rush has apparently already started, with ants in places as diverse as Cambridge and Nottingham already having had their day in the sun this week. There have also been several seagull traffic deaths in Devon, caused by the gulls gobbling down too much ant acid.

Last year, the Society of Biology enlisted the aid of “citizen scientists” to keep track of times, dates and weather conditions of sightings. What they found was that the nuptial flight occurs after a low pressure system and within a tight time frame, usually over a few days. The ants also make their flights between four and six in the afternoon.

The idea of citizen scientists compiling data for a scholarly society strikes me as, perhaps, rather familiar: early modern Royal Society anyone? William Derham (1657-1735), for example, was a clergyman by day and a “citizen scientist” by night—specifically, an astronomer—who kept Hans Sloane and the Royal Society apprised of his star-gazing. (I discussed Derham’s interests in another post.) Derham also passed on observations from other people, including Mr Barrett’s* account of flying ants in 1707.

I was lately at our friend Mr Barrets, who desired me to acquaint the Society concerning the Flights of Ants (that made such a noise in London last Sumer) that he hath for many years last past constantly observed the Flight of that Insect on the very same, or within a day or two of that very day of the Month, on which they fell in London. About the year 1689 or 1690 (as I remember) he said he saw a cloud of them, and several times since he hath seen the same. He took it for a Cloud full of Rain approaching towards him, & was much surprized to find it a vast Number of Ants only frisking in the Air, & carried aloft as he imagined only wth the gentle Current of the Air. He is of opinion that they allways come fromward the Westerly points. I hope our curious Members will for the future observe them more accurately, that we may make a judgment from what parts they came. The next day after they fell in London, I remember we had in divers places many of them, particularly at Mr Barrets, & South-Weal & Burntwood. I call them Flying-Ants, because Mr Barret (who is a good Judge) said they were such that he saw.

In 1707, people were as fascinated by the sight of flying ants as we are today, with the Flight causing quite a stir in London in 1706. Although observers weren’t even sure if the insects really were ants, or why they were flying in a mass, they were clear on three points: that it was a regular annual event, that air currents enabled the Flight, and that it occurred on multiple days across the south of England.

Over three-hundred years on, we’re rediscovering that Flying Ant Day is region specific in the U.K. and is affected by weather. It is intriguing that modern science still hasn’t explained the specific triggers for the Flight of Ants and has once again turned to citizen scientists to provide a larger data set for study. Despite Derham’s hope that “our curious Members will for the future observe them more accurately”, the Royal Society doesn’t appear to have taken much interest in the Flight of Ants. Maybe the Society of Biology will have more success.

If I happen to spot the Flying Ants this year, I plan to take part in the Society of Biology’s 2013 Flying Ant Day survey. This time, I’ll follow in the footsteps of Barrett and Derham by closely observing the natural world at my doorstep instead of dashing past it.

UPDATE, 22 July: The nuptial flight occurred in my London neighbourhood today, just before 5 p.m. I could not avoid observing nature on my doorstep, which had become a graveyard for a number of them. Here are two, caught in between a bit of flying around my garden. (And I did fill in my survey!)

Flight of the Ants, 22 July 2013. Image: Lisa Smith.

Flight of the Ants, 22 July 2013. Image: Lisa Smith.

*Probably Dacres Leonard Barrett, a member of the Fuller family (relations by marriage to Sloane) and occasional correspondent of Sloane’s.

Hans Sloane and the Pit

Headlines today: “‘Black Death pit’ unearthed by Crossrail project“. It’s all very exciting when London starts to dig deep under its surface, with various plague pits, Bronze Age transport networks and more being unearthed. I can’t help thinking, sometimes, that it’s only a matter of time before we have a Quatermass and the Pit situation!

In the eighteenth century, building on a plague pit was a matter of national concern. On 16 March 1723, The British Journal (iss. XXVI) reported that Richard Mead and Sloane had been consulted on the matter of Lord Craven wanting to build over the Pest-House Fields. As I’ve discussed before, Sloane–who was no less than a court physician and President of the Royal College of Physicians–and Mead had advised the government about preventing an outbreak in London during the Marseilles plague of 1720-22.

Human bones and skulls in a brick-built pit. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

During the plague of 1665, William, 1st Earl of Craven, stayed in London as a member of a commission to prevent the plague’s spread. The commission recommended isolating the sick by setting up pest houses and burying the dead in plague pits. A few years after the outbreak (1671), Lord Craven purchased land near Lancaster Gate, with a Pest House Field for the use of nearby parishes: St. Paul, St. Clement Danes, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and St. James.By 1700, however, London was growing rapidly and, without a recent outbreak of the plague, the unused land was increasingly seen as a problem. In any case, with so many people around, it could no longer serve as a place of isolation if an epidemic did break out.[1]

The answer to Lord Craven’s question in 1723 was “no”. The physicians had apparently

determin’d, that the Digging them [the land] up might be of dangerous Consequence, there having been many hundred distemper’d Bodies buried there in the Plague Time.

With the memory of the Marseilles plague still fresh in people’s minds, this was probably not the best time for Lord Craven to ask! The fact that the plague experts Sloane and Mead were called in for a consultation suggests that the disposal of Lord Craven’s land was a matter of national importance. If meddling with the land could cause a plague outbreak, threatening the health of people and the economy, it should not be done.

Eleven years later, the family had greater success in determining the use of their land. Although the government did not consult Sloane and Mead this time, their decisions still erred on the side of caution. The government specified that only a hospital could be built on the site.

By the 1820s, the family had divided and leased the land, but a curious clause was written into the leases: the leasees were required to turn over the land for use during a plague outbreak. The definition of ‘plague’ was a bit ambiguous: did this refer only to plague or to any infectious disease? This became a pressing matter during the 1833 cholera epidemic, but fortunately for the tenants, the lease remained limited to plague. With plague deemed unlikely ever to happen again, a wealthy neighbourhood soon spread across the area.

Then and now, London is frequently faced with the problem of its multitude of inconvenient corpses. The ghost of the plague that haunted eighteenth-century London’s plague pits still peeks its head out every so often, but we can greet it with curiosity instead of fear.[2]

[1.] A short history of the Craven Estate can be read here: http://www.corringham.eu/cravenestate.html.

[2.] UPDATED 16 MARCH 2013: Some of us, anyhow. A slightly strange article in The Telegraph has taken the angle of trying to scare readers about the possible dangers posed by old plague pits. Darin Hayton has also picked up on some media hyperbole and commenter anxiety about the discovery, which he discusses in his post “A Dozen Medieval Plague Victims?”

Sloane, A Camden Character

By Kim Biddulph

“I will like history more.” This was the response from one of the schoolchildren I worked with on a project about Sir Hans Sloane. He had been asked how the project would change what he will do in the future. This boy had been difficult to engage and had struggled with reading primary sources. He had done his own thing when we were doing designing activities, and he didn’t even want to go to the celebration event at the end of the project. But it meant a lot when I read his feedback, and that is what he said. It made my day.

I highlighted this response in the evaluation report I sent to the UK Heritage Lottery Fund, which had provided the money for the project. Healing Histories took place over the academic year 2011-12 and, as project coordinator, I was based in the London Borough of Camden‘s School Improvement Consultancy Service. I worked with students from two secondary (high) schools on a debating project about herbal medicine and with another primary (elementary) school class on designing and planting a physic garden in Bloomsbury Square.

The physic garden in Bloomsbury Square.

But the most challenging and exciting part of the project was to get a class of twenty-four Year 5 pupils (aged 9-10) to research, write and design a trail leaflet about Sloane in Bloomsbury.

St Georges Bloomsbury with a statue of George I on top of the steeple.

Sloane lived at 3 and 4 Bloomsbury Place (then Great Russell Street) from about 1695 to 1742, and his collection was, of course, the basis of the British Museum. Through their research (prepared in advance by a freelance historian, Katie Potter), the kids found out that the Duke of Bedford had a house north of Bloomsbury Square and that there had been a market south of Bloomsbury Square when Sloane lived there. They also found out that he had been a vestryman at St George’s Bloomsbury, which was a new church, opened in 1731.

We also had a professional writer, Dr Michael McMillan, who helped the kids get into the research through poetry and drama. The pupils really enjoyed dramatising major events in Sloane’s life, like his trip to Jamaica and meeting the ex-pirate Henry Morgan, and the attempted arson attack and burglary at his house in 1700. Michael also challenged them to do the best writing they’d ever done. It really worked. They wrote a day in the life of Hans Sloane as he went for a walk around his local area.

The final trail as researched written and designed by 10 year olds.

Then they designed the leaflet itself, with the help of Sav Kyriacou of digital:works. I found some pictures of Georgian interiors for them to use as a guide to creating a colour swatch for the leaflet, and we did a very basic and fun cut and stick activity with all the elements we needed on the trail.

The trail was launched at a great day in Bloomsbury Square, and the Mayor of Camden attended, as well as Sir Hans Sloane himself (well, an actor)! The pupils had prepared part of the trail as a walking tour and gave it to pupils from another school. Then, as one final treat, I had organised for them to go into 4 Bloomsbury Place, one of Sloane’s houses. He had originally moved into number 3, but as his collection grew he needed more space so leased the house next door as well. Various businesses are now housed in that same building and two of them let us look around, including Prestel Publishing, who gave the pupils access to the roof!

We found so many sources and stories for the children to work with, including Old Bailey records of the attempted burglary and other crimes in the area, vestry records at St George’s Bloomsbury, and accounts of Handel leaving a buttered muffin on one of Sloane’s priceless manuscripts. There were all of his c.80,000 collected objects in the British Museum, British Library and Natural History Museum to look through, too. Sadly, we didn’t find the correspondence, which now fills me with regret!

The pupils got a lot out of the project, though. They looked at an array of historical sources, which the teacher has packaged up to use as a topic with subsequent year groups; they became amazingly confident in their writing; they contributed something to their local area; and their hard work was rightly celebrated.

There was something special about Hans Sloane that kept their interest. He led a fascinating life at a fascinating time in history, meeting pirates, Samuel Pepys, Handel, Linnaeus, and kings and queens. He was a high-achiever from a relatively modest background–and William Stukeley described him as not being able to speak in public at all. He had a tangible impact on the local area, with the British Museum standing as a testament to his collecting zeal. He popularised milk chocolate and he had a stuffed giraffe in his living room (both winners with kids).

Sign on the pavement outside the British Museum during the Olympics.

I have moved on to pastures new, but later this term the pupils who were involved in this project will do a series of talks at neighbouring schools to tell their peers what they have done and what they found out. Copies of the trail have been sent to every Camden school with ideas for teachers to incorporate them into their history or English classes, and the trail is being given out at the British Museum. So if you’re in London and you get a chance, go to the information desk in the Great Court and ask for a copy, then take a stroll round eighteenth century Bloomsbury through the eyes of Sir Hans Sloane. Until then, you can download the trail from the British Museum website.

Kim Biddulph trained as an archaeologist and now works as a museum educator. She coordinated two projects for the London Borough of Camden to engage children and young people with the heritage of Camden, an area of central and north London. Healing Histories was the second of those projects, funded through the UK National Lottery and it aimed to explore the heritage of Sloane, who lived in the borough for over 40 years. Kim also blogs at Archaeotext

Image Credits: Kim Biddulph