Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ranarum Nostratium

Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium 1758 (frontispiece)

Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium 1758 c

Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium 1758 e

Hyla arborea

Hyla arborea - Tadpole (detail manipulated)


Frog coupling

Frog Fertilisation

Frog Skeleton

Frog skeleton a

Frog skeleton b

Dissected tadpole

pinned, dissected frog

Frog digestive tract

Frog internal organs

Frog internal organs a

Frog internal organs b

Frog internal organs d

dissected frog organs

August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof (1705-1759) was a German descendent of Austrian nobility and showed an early aptitude for painting. Following an apprenticeship with his artist-uncle and further study at the Academy of Nuremberg, Rösel obtained an appointment at the royal court in Copenhagen painting portraits and miniatures.

Two years later, Rösel fell ill during the return trip to Nuremberg. He suspended his journey and spent a month recuperating in Hamburg. As chance would have it, a copy of Maria Sybilla Merian's amazing natural science book, 'Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium' [previously], was given to Rösel during his convalescence and it had a profound influence over the direction of his career.

Rösel was so enchanted by Merian's exquisite drawings that he began to study the insects, reptiles and amphibians of Germany in his spare time away from a successful portrait painting business. He collected specimens and observed the development of the organisms through the various stages of their life cycles and he made detailed notes accompanied by precise sketches of his observations.

With the release in 1740 of his renowned work on insects, 'Insecten-Belustigung', Rösel basically established himself as one of the founding patriarchs of German entomology.

Between 1753 and 1758, Rösel published his classic treatise on frogs in instalments. Regarded as one of the most beautiful natural science books on amphibians ever produced, 'Historia Naturalis Ranarum Nostratium' documented the full egg-to-tadpole-to-frog developmental stages for the first time. It therefore occupies an esteemed position in the literature of batrachians (frogs and toads) and, indeed, in the history of science.

Sadly, Rösel suffered a stroke before he was able to publish a third work on lizards and salamanders, but his notes served as a source for a number of species descriptions by Linnaeus. Rösel has, therefore, an impeccable record in publishing, with both of his works considered artistic and scientific triumphs. He holds the further distinction, just by the by, for being the first person to observe and describe amoeba (Proteus animalcule as it was originally known), which he discovered late in his life.


Kittybriton said...

I wonder who believed that toads had a jewel in their heads, and when. And how seriously they believed it.

Unknown said...

wow, exquisite images.. thank you peacay! so cool to see images like these close up - the little details like tadpole's mouth, the jewel-like symmetry of the organs...

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