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Niels Steno, Canis carchariae dissectum caput, appendix to Elementorum myologiae specimen (Florence, 1667)

Dissection of the Head of a Shark

In an appendix to an anatomical work, written for Ferdinand Medici II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, Steno recounted his dissection of the head of a shark that recently had washed ashore. His anatomical analysis suggested that the well-known glossopetrae, or “tongue-stones,” were fossilized shark’s teeth, and lent support to the view that other fossils likewise might have formed from an organic origin.

The image of the shark head, not original with Steno, became an icon for the organic origin of fossils and was frequently reprinted.

Galileo's World Exhibition Location

Source: History of Science Collections

Section: Renaissance of Discovery

Section Number: 1

Object Number: 7

Subject Area(s): Health Sciences, Geology, Biology

Time Period: 17th Century

Region(s): Europe, Italy

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Exhibit Gallery OERs

Wondertooneel: Women and Museums

Wondertooneel Learning Leaflet

What were women doing in the museum? 

Levinus Vincent, a wealthy Dutch merchant with ties to the East Indies, created a spectacular 'Chamber of Wonders' natural history museum in Haarlem. Visiting dignitaries admired his museum, including Peter the Great and King Charles III of Spain. The detailed depictions of interior spaces include figures of women engaged in a variety of activities. Museums such as Vincent's offered women opportunities for participation in the natural sciences as donors, collectors, discoverers, visitors, patrons, lecturers and curators. This OER explores the significance of women in these early museums.


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Maria Merian: World-Traveling Entomologist

Maria Merian Learning Leaflet

How do art and travel benefit natural history? 

Maria Merian (1647-1717), skilled in both art and natural history, studied the relationships between flowers and insects. She conducted field expeditions around the world, carried out research in gardens and museums, and produced detailed sketches and beautiful paintings, and even bred insects to aid in her entomological investigations. 


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