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Biodiversity Blog


Old Croone Day!

 William Croone 1680
Croone as painted in 1680 by Mary Beale, one of the most prolific British portrait painters at the time.

Got plans on June 4th? Looking for something to celebrate? Might think about Old Croone Day. While it’s not official, the day honors a man who gave us a lot when it comes to the modern natural history collection.

Dr. William Croone (1633-1684) is the founding father of the modern spirits-preserved natural history specimen. Back in 1662, Croone appeared before the Royal Society of London with a vial of two dog embryos in “spirit of wine.” They had been hermetically sealed and at the time of preservation, those puppies had been in the jar a whole eight days. This was the first recorded mention of a fluid-preserved specimen.

A little context is in order. This isn’t the first time anyone had ever tried to preserve something. Humans had been using preservation methods for centuries before Croone showed up with his preserved pups. Societies had been using brine, vinegar, honey, wine and oil to preserve food. The Babylonians preserved their dead in honey. Ethyl alcohol, which would be used for preservation, is the oldest organic chemical, comes from a natural fermentation process, and requires distillation. Others had used aluminum sulfate, turpentine, and mercuric chloride to try to save things from rotting. If this stuff fascinates you, check out this slide show Rack, Rum, or Brandy- A Biochemical History of Fluid Preservation by John E. Simmons from the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at Pennsylvania State University.

Today, most fluid preserved vertebrate specimens are initially fixed in formalin and transferred to alcohol for long-term storage. So no vinegar or wine or other fixings to make salad dressing.

As June 4th winds down, choose a spirit of your choice and lift it to Dr. William Croone! Happy Old Croone Day!


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 Specimens from the Ichthyology Collection in the Biodiversity Center. No honey here!


BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Mediterranean gecko

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