The Historical Collections blog

10 Oct 2018

Gardening for Butterflies

This year’s Heritage Open Day event for the John Innes Historical Collections was an opportunity to show off some of the entomological treasures in our Rare Books Library.

13 Jun 2018

Help us transcribe a piece of genetics history

It might look unimpressive from the outside, but we need your help to transcribe this small, student notebook from the John Innes Centre Archives, which could help change our understanding of the history of genetics in Britain.

16 May 2018

The 2018 Innes Lecture; Citizen Science

This year’s ‘Innes Lecture’ took the theme of ‘citizen science’. Titled ‘Networks of Naturalists: Scientific communities in the 19th and 21st centuries’, Sally Shuttleworth and John Tweddle explored the history behind popular participation in natural knowledge and mapped today’s landscape of ‘citizen science’.

6 Dec 2017

JBS Haldane at 125

The 5 November 2017 was the 125th Anniversary of the birth of one of our most famous alumni; John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964), affectionately known by many as ‘JBS’.

1 Nov 2017

Else Schulz; our mystery woman

Recently, a collection of sketchbooks came to light in the John Innes Centre archives. Normally, when a selection of books come to the collection, the archivists at least know who gave the books, where the books came from, when the books came and why they ended up in the collection. However, the archivists at the John Innes Centre Historical Collections team knew none of that. So, Madeline Ridout was given the task of deciphering this mystery, with nothing to work with except her name: Else Schulz. 

25 Sep 2017

From hot toddies to corpse mimics – how and why some plants generate heat

On 7-8 September,Dr Kirsten Bomblies, a Project Leader at the John Innes Centre, gave a fascinating talk in our Rare Books Room on how, and why, some plants have evolved to be able to generate heat, just like we do.

16 Aug 2017

John Innes Celebrates 50 Years in Norwich 2017

2017 is a landmark year for the John Innes Centre- we have now been based in Norwich for 50 years. But when the Director of the ‘John Innes Institute’ announced the planned move to Norwich in 1962, the news was not initially welcomed by the staff – far from it...

28 Nov 2016

Norwich’s botanical secrets and surprises

Few people with a family in Norfolk will be unaware of the beauty, strangeness and interest of the natural history collections of the Castle Museum in Norwich. But how many also know that there is a Rare Books Room at the John Innes Centre in Norwich? Or that it houses an important collection covering natural science, horticulture and botanical art across five centuries? Norwich has had more than its fair share of celebrated botanists…

19 Sep 2016

Our ancient and diverse brassica vegetables

Dr Judith Irwin from the John Innes Centre’s Crop Genetics Department recently spoke to us about ‘Our Ancient and Diverse Brassica Vegetables’- a fascinating tour of more than 2,000 years of history of cultivation and study, brought up to date with Judith’s research on flowering time in broccoli.

13 Jul 2016

Innes Lecture 2016: ‘Cunning Killer Orchids’

This year’s Innes lecturer was Dr Jim Endersby, Reader in the History of Science at the University of Sussex. Jim has already published two highly readable books A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology (2007) and Imperial Nature (2008) – a book about Joseph Hooker, Kew gardens, and what it meant to be a botanist in the 19th Century – but in this lecture on ‘Cunning Killer Orchids’ he gave us a sneak preview of his latest book Orchid: A cultural History which will be available later this autumn.

1 Jun 2016

Introducing our new archivist Mark Pitchforth

My name is Mark Pitchforth and I have just taken up the post of John Innes Centre Project Archivist, funded by the Welcome Trust, based in the John Innes Centre Library and working with the wonderful historical archive collections held there.

1 Mar 2016

Celebrating the history of peas and the International Year of the Pulse

2016 has been designated the ‘International Year of Pulses’ by the United Nations General Assembly.

12 Aug 2015

Following the primrose path- why early botanists may have not dallied long enough to understand the secrets of heterostyly

One day while studying the illustrations of William Curtis’s Flora Londiniensis, an eighteenth century publication documenting the wild plants growing within a 10 mile radius of London, and one that brought Curtis ‘praise’ rather than ‘pudding’, Phil Gilmartin noticed that Curtis had drawn both of the two types of flower that occur in Primula

3 Mar 2015

Mendel and the culture of commemoration

The lionisation of Mendel in England began soon after the ‘rediscovery’ of his paper around 1900 by three European botanists: de Vries in Holland, Correns in Germany, and Tschermak in Austria.

8 Dec 2014

Rare books images now accessible through the Mary Evans Picture Library

A set of 101 historic images from the John Innes Historical Collections is now digitised and available online in the Mary Evans Picture Library.

22 Oct 2014

Harvest Moon and the Wheat Wizard

In September the John Innes Centre celebrated the life and work of plant breeder Rowland Biffen, one of the key figures documented in the Plant Breeding Institute archives which were transferred to the John Innes Centre archives after the Institute was privatised in 1987.

2 Apr 2014

What did the John Innes Institute do during the First World War?

Britain’s scientists contributed to the war effort in a number of ways from weapons development to food and medical research. The John Innes story in 1914-18 is more about hearts and minds, the often overlooked impacts of the war on science and learning, and the sacrifice of individual careers and sometimes lives.

12 Feb 2014

The meaning of flowers: a Valentine’s Day blog

When our John Innes Centre scientists ask about the meaning of flowers you can be pretty sure they are not thinking about flower symbolism and the language of love.

22 Oct 2013

From ‘Dora and Desmond’ to Professor Roy Markham and Professor David Lipkin

In this guest blog archives enthusiast Anna Cullingford describes how she stumbled across a collection of John Innes related letters at a local auction in Norfolk.

30 Jul 2013

Forgotten book reveals a 110-year-old secret about one of Mendel’s rediscoverers

In 1985 the John Innes Centre History of Genetics Library gained a new accession, a duplicate copy of the first edition of William Bateson’s Mendel’s Principles of Heredity: A Defence, published by Cambridge University Press in 1902. No fanfare accompanied the addition, yet this copy was special, and of much more value than the two existing copies in the Library it joined.

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