Cambridge University Press, 2006. 256 pages, Small quarto, hard cover, colour illustrations, black and white illustrations.
Collecting curiosities was a gentlemanly occupation for wealthy and educated 18th-century Europeans. Few creatures aroused more curiosity than those from Australia. But collections demand organisation, and classification itself reveals patterns to life that cannot be ignored. From a leisurely occupation, the science of biology was born. Cabinets de curiosites became national museums, with specimens from Australia playing an integral role in all kinds of biological debates. Australian museums now foster their own research and continue to provide major and sometimes unexpected perspectives to international scientific developments. Continent of curiosities follows the thread of individual natural history stories through the scientists of one of Australia’s oldest museums, Museum Victoria. Together, these stories weave a history of the development of biological science from an Australian perspective, with insights into the people and places that influence the way we see and understand the natural world around us.